Putting agricultural biodiversity back on the nutrition agenda

Putting agricultural biodiversity back on the nutrition agenda

At last week's 2nd International Congress Hidden Hunger in Stuttgart, Dr. Stephan Weise, Deputy Director General - Research gave a presentation on how agricultural biodiversity contributes to healthy lives and healthy landscapes, while Dr. Gudrun Keding won a poster award on fruit consumption and production.

Around 350 participants gathered in Stuttgart, Germany, last week for the 2nd International Congress Hidden Hunger organized by the University of Hohenheim. Hidden hunger refers to a lack of the essential vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin A, iron, zinc and calcium, required in small amounts by the body for proper growth and development.

Scientists, fieldworkers, members of NGOs and representatives from the government, public, private and civil sector from around the world came together to focus on the causes and consequences of hidden hunger during early development as well as on counter-strategies.

Dr. Stephan Weise, Deputy Director General Research, Bioversity International presented the importance of agricultural and tree biodiversity for healthy lives and healthy landscapes, reminding participants of the importance of food systems to nutrition security. He stressed the need to make significant changes in how we produce, process, transport, market and consume foods if we are to improve nutrition, and the importance of understanding what type of diets have the lowest environmental impact while at the same time meeting nutrient requirements. He also drew attention to the need to look at the whole diet rather than focus on approaches that just consider single nutrients and echoed most other speakers in calling for different disciplines to work together.

Dr. Gudrun Keding, Bioversity International Postdoctoral Fellow, was also invited to give an oral presentation on the so-called ‘nutrition-transition’ in Kenya and Tanzania which describes a shift towards low dietary variety and increased consumption of highly processed foods that are high in energy. This is also combined with low physical activity. This transition is on the rise even in populations of low income countries in both urban and rural areas.

Keding also presented a poster which gained first poster award (see photo of the award presentation). The poster is called ‘Fruit consumption and production: habits, preferences and attitudes of rural households in Western Kenya’.

Currently, fruit consumption in Eastern Africa is far below the recommended daily amount of 400g of fruits and vegetables per person per day, even though the agro-climatic conditions are favourable to the production of a diversity of fruit species. This has implications for micronutrient malnutrition while little is known about the patterns and determinants of fruit production, consumption and marketing.

The poster shows results of a study that collected data about key trends in gender-disaggregated preferences, attitudes and decision-making processes of rural households for fruit consumption, production, and income generated from this activity. The study was able to show that nearly half of participating households indicated that they sell fruit to generate income, with the other half eating the fruits as part of their household diet. Income generated from fruit sales was mostly spent on starchy staples with less spent on nutritious foods.

While through this the family might not go hungry, hidden hunger is still persisting. As a majority of participants would like to increase fruit consumption this should be seen as an incentive for increasing fruit production in Western Kenya as well as increasing research and development of fruit trees and how they can contribute to improved nutrition.

View or download the poster:
Fruit consumption and production: habits, preferences and attitudes of rural households in Western Kenya

For more information, contact Dr. Gudrun Keding

This work supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) and the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation, Germany.