The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has launched a project to support the government’s efforts to reduce malnutrition, particularly among women and vulnerable groups.
Known as “Support to reduction in malnutrition in women and vulnerable populations through food-based approaches”, the project is also aimed at facilitating the country’s efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal Five (SDG 5), which entreats all member countries to end hunger, achieve food security and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.
The technical-cooperation project between the FAO and the government started in June 2019 and will end in 2021, with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) as the major implementing partner.
According to statistics from the Ghana Health Service (GHS), nutrition in the first 1,000 days of human life, starting from conception to two years, was very critical and a major contributor to a person’s state of health later in life, including the risk to non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
The GHS, therefore, advises that expectant mothers and women in their reproductive ages take their nutrition seriously.
The FAO Representative in Ghana, Ms Jocelyn Brown Hall, disclosed this in a speech read on her behalf at the launch of the project in Accra yesterday.
Participants included representatives from the MoFA, the Crops Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Industrial and Scientific Research (CSIR) and the ministries of Education and Health.
The objective of the workshop was to introduce the project and its implementation plan to the stakeholders and build partnerships with them to ensure its effective implementation.
Ms Hall said the project was initiated as a result of a recent research that established that 5.5 million Ghanaians were malnourished.
The research, which focused on food systems and diets, was conducted by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems.
“The report says that poor diet is now recognised as the single most important contributor to diseases in Ghana and the rest of the world.
Malnutrition contributes to diet-related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancers and more,” she said.
She explained that the FAO designed the project to complement existing national efforts to help strengthen food and nutrition security.
“The project will promote the production and utilisation of nutrient-rich foods, including orange fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP) and other locally identified nutrient-rich vegetables,” she added.
Ms Hall said malnutrition predisposed children to increased infections, irreversible stunting, impaired physical growth and mental development, poor health and, eventually, death.
Orange fleshed potatoes
A researcher at the CRI, Dr Kwadwo Adofo, described OFSP as a highly nutritious root crop with immense nutritional and economic benefits.
He said the crop was fortified with carbohydrates, vitamins A, B3 to B9 and C, adding that it contained fibre and was also fortified with proteins and other food minerals such as amino acids.
“The OFSP offers an inexpensive and sustainable strategy to reduce Vitamin A and other food nutrients deficiency and its nature is such that every household can cultivate it,” he said.
Dr Adofo recommended the integration of OFSPs into the school feeding programme, the Planting for Food and Jobs policy and pre- and post-natal healthcare delivery services to ensure that the desired impact was achieved.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, commended the FAO for the initiative and for its continuous support to the agricultural sector of the country over the years.
He acknowledged the fact that despite efforts at attaining food security, a high number of Ghanaians were still malnourished.
He said initiatives such as Planting for Food and Jobs and Rearing for Food and Jobs were also aimed at addressing deficits in the nutritional needs of the vulnerable, as well as ensuring food security in the country.