AGRF Food Systems and Nutrition Session highlights Pathways for Scaling Up Innovations
September 9, 2021

The AGRF Summit 2021 (running Sept 6-10) is exploring  the pathways and actions needed to steer the African continent towards food systems that:

  • deliver sufficient and nutritious food
  • do not impact the environment negatively
  • create sustainable, dignified jobs, and shared prosperity for Africa.

The session “Africa’s Solutions towards safe and nutritious food for all” sought to identify innovations and strategies that are helping Africa improve the availability, access and affordability of nutrient rich food that is sustainably produced. During the discussions, mechanisms for scaling up of these successful innovations and strategies were highlighted.

Mrs. Nane Annan, Board Member & Nutrition Advocate, Kofi Annan Foundation, at the opening plenary stated that: “46 million people are affected by hunger in 2020 and effects on food, nutrition and security are more pronounced.” She added that we can build resilience through the potential of biofortified crops such as orange sweet potato which has been a successful experiment in Ghana as it replaced the expensive import of wheat.

The panelists for this session were:

  1. Mr. Larry Umunna, Regional Director, West Africa, Technoserve
  2. Ms. Patience Mukweza, Operations Executive, Food Solutions, a subsidiary of Beams & Rays Packaging, Zimbabwe
  3. Director, Nutreal Ltd & Associate Professor, Department of Food Technology & Nutrition, Makerere University, Uganda
  4. Ms. Tei Mukunya Oundo, Chief Executive Officer, Nature Lock, Kenya
  5. Ms. Isabel Dimitrov, Manager, Corporate Responsibility & Community Engagement, Cargil
  6. Ms. Lauren Landis, Country Director and Representative, Kenya, World Food Program (WFP)

Key takeaways:

  • Planning, adapting and adopting technologies that supply affordable and accessible nutritious foods is paramount. The proposed Africa Coalition of Action for Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems for Children, Families & All for is a step in the right direction.
  • Technological innovations and solutions to scale production of diverse, safe, and healthy crops and food include biofortification thanks to actors such as CGIAR, HarvestPlus, GAIN and many other partners.
  • Making sustainable, healthy diets accessible to all requires us to keep an eye on the balance between food and non-food crops; commercializing biofortified crops with a secondary use on the crops; and investing in commercialising crops that speak to our palettes on the continent; and pre-cooking and packaging technologies for ease-of-use.
  • Effective solutions to lowering the cost of a healthy diet, can focus on improving efficiency along the value chain including supporting farmers in productivity and quality to reduce costs of processing; shortening food supply chains; using locally sourced materials e.g seeds; using innovative processing and packaging e.g combining a balanced meal that fit budgets; lowering the cost and time for food preparation such bean flour; also focus on complimentary foods for women of reproductive age.
  • Some of the incentives that would “persuade” commercial food companies and retailers to focus on marketing sustainable healthy foods include influencing the consumer to want the healthy food working with advocacy campaigns; co-creating recipes with other partners; government incentives (like taxation) that will encourage production of healthy foods. 
  • We heard about “Hatching Hope in Kenya” which is a stakeholder engagement contributing to nutritious food by focusing on poultry. The program in Kenya has focused on engaging on all key-value chain actors to improve livelihoods; nutrition education; and supporting sustainable market access. 
  • Ensuring that consumers have access to knowledge and information to make informed dietary choices requires nutrition food labels for consumers, a key policy and empowering tool – specifically a front label that is easy to read, understand and accurate. This can be accompanied with advocacy and consumer education and awareness. There are 7 countries in Africa that have food based dietary guidelines.
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