THE United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that 795 million people in the world suffer from chronic undernourishment. Close to 2 billion people in the world suffer from micronutrient deficiency and related health consequences.
In Africa, a significant proportion of the undernourished are communities living in rural areas and practicing smallholder farming. Therefore, cracking the knowledge on the linkage between agriculture and nutrition in the African small farm sector and developing approaches on how the uptake of pro-nutrition innovations can be promoted could save millions of dollars by preventing haphazard interventions through focused and targeted development intermediation.
There are many interventions to address these challenges. Pathways are being explored to address the specific challenge of combating the ‘hidden hunger’.
The Agriculture and Dietary Diversity in Africa (ADDA) is a research project that Africa Harvest is undertaking together with Georg-August University of Göttingen in Germany and the University of Nairobi in Kenya.
The ADDA project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The study is investigating the relationship between agricultural production and nutritional quality in small farm households. It’s looking at factors that influence this relationship. This will help identify how best to fast-track uptake of pro-nutrition agricultural technologies in rural communities. It will also allow broader conclusions about suitable agricultural strategies aimed at improving dietary diversity and nutritional quality.
The biofortified highly nutritious KK bean varieties
“The ADDA study also focuses on developing new models of community outreach that are suitable to promote the uptake of pro-nutrition innovations in a sustainable and gender-inclusive approach. This is the project’s overall objective,” says Africa Harvest’s Director of the Food and Nutritional Security Program.
He gives the example of the Kuroiler chicken, which is part of the pro-nutrition agricultural innovations being introduced in Kisii and Nyamira Counties. This being done alongside the KK15 bean variety, which is biofortified to have enhanced levels of iron, zinc, and other essential nutrients.
“The thinking behind this is that the uptake of new agricultural technologies is likely to succeed if packaged as part of an integrated approach to food nutrition, security and sustainable livelihoods,” says Dr. Njuguna.
The Kuroiler chickens offer a significant improvement in virtually all areas of breeding. While indigenous chickens lay just 30-40 eggs per year, the Kuroilers can easily produce five times that number or around 150 to 200 eggs, even under typical smallholder conditions.
Another peculiar characteristic Kuroilers possess is that the breed lays the same size of eggs at all times unlike the traditional breeds known as Kienyeji and hybrid layers which start with smaller eggs. In rural parts of Kenya, access to feed can often be a major constraint and often limit’s the farmers in expanding their enterprise. Africa Harvest chose the Kuroiler breed because the birds are low-maintenance, and just like the local breeds, they can largely be kept under a free range system, where the birds are left to scratch for food with no restrictions and very little or no supplements.
The birds can grow fast, putting on 2kg for hens and 3kg for cocks by three months and 3kg and 4kg respectively by “While farmers continue to grow enough for themselves and others, there is no doubt that we need to make access to sustainable nutritious diets the core outcome of the project. We are also investigating how farmers make nutritional choices when provided with nutritious crops, given training, information on nutrition and markets.”
“To improve nutrition, it will not be sufficient to identify pro-nutrition innovations for particular settings; these innovations also need to be implemented in farmers’ fields,” says Dr N “Rural communities are among the most food and nutrition insecure, children and women bear the highest health burden, therefore one of the most important approaches is to tackle malnutrition at community level.”