AFRICA – The European Commission has invested €7 million (US$8.1m) to fund the FoodLAND project, an international research initiative aimed to boost the nutrition performance of local food systems in Africa.
According to a recent press-release by the commission, the project is within the Horizon 2020 programme and is led by Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna (Italy).
It is committed to developing a range of innovations for local agriculture and aquaculture development, as well as to nudging consumers towards healthier eating behaviour in six African countries i.e. Morocco, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The overall project aims to strengthen agro and food diversity by providing traditional-based, healthy, nutritious foods, while encouraging the diffusion of African diets and aiding the fight against malnutrition, particularly in women and children.
“By bridging the gap between food production and consumption, the project will reinforce the productivity and resilience of food supply chains, and will create new market opportunities on both the local and global scales”, said project coordinator Marco Setti, Professor of the Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences of the University of Bologna.
The project will create a network of 14 local Food Hubs, paired with 14 separate cities in the targeted countries, that will mobilise relevant actors in rural, urban and peri-urban communities and serve as injection points for testing and introducing the innovations.
FoodLAND comprises of a consortium of 28 partners of which 18 are African institutions while the other 10 are European.
They will work together to develop, implement and validate 12 technological innovations which include organizational and technological innovations for both vegetable and fish farming and food processing systems.
They will also develop 17 novel local food products, ranging from fresh, dried and processed vegetables and fish to composite flours and therapeutic foods.
“By bridging the gap between food production and consumption, the project will reinforce the productivity and resilience of food supply chains, and will create new market opportunities on both the local and global scales.”Marco Setti – Professor of the Department of Agricultural and Food Sciences of the University of Bologna
FoodLAND is adopting a bottom-up approach by basing the initiatives on producers’ and consumers’ motivations, needs and choices.
The project will draw a comprehensive picture of the nutritional needs of urban and rural populations, understanding the socio-economic, production conditions, and individual factors that determine the decisions of smallholder producers and processors.
Smallholder farmers and food operators will then receive assistance to foster nutrition-responsive and sustainable agro-biodiversity, while consumers will participate in a specific awareness-raising and communication campaign.
The initiative comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening the food security and nutrition of millions of people around the world.
Recent data, according to African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN), shows that Africa has the highest prevalence of malnutrition and may soon overtake Asia as the region with the fastest-growing number of hungry and undernourished people.
According to 2020 Global Nutrition Report by UNICEF, although Africa relatively performs well against other regions, the region still experiences a malnutrition burden among its under-five population.
The average prevalence of overweight in under-fives is 4.9% – the second lowest across all regions.
The prevalence of stunting in under-fives is 30%, which is greater than the global average of 21.9%. Conversely, the Africa region’s prevalence of wasting in under-fives of 7.1%, is less than the global average of 7.3%.
Some 43.4% of infants under 6 months in the Africa region are exclusively breastfed, while the region’s average low birth weight prevalence of 13.7% is less than the global average of 14.6%.
The Africa region’s adult population also face a malnutrition burden. An average of 38.1% of women of reproductive age have anaemia, and 8.1% of adult women have diabetes, compared to 7.9% of men. Meanwhile, 17% of women and 7% of men have obesity.
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