African Union Endorses Biofortification to Tackle Malnutrition and Enrich School Meals
26 April 2023, Africa: As countries across Africa grapple with food and nutrition insecurity due to multiple global crises, the African Union is prioritizing ways to help make nutrient-rich foods available, accessible, and affordable to those who need them most.
These efforts include providing leadership to countries to establish or strengthen home-grown school feeding programs (HGSF), which support local agriculture and economies and lead to healthy children who excel in school.
The African Union Development Agency-New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AUDA-NEPAD) reinforces the need to establish a connection between HGSF programs and sustainable local food production. Through multiple projects, HarvestPlus is increasing childhood access to nutritious foods by integrating nutrient-enriched crops procured from local smallholder farmers into school meals—ensuring long-term demand for farmers’ produce while meeting schools’ requirements for food that improves the health, nutrition, and educational outcomes of children.
Following the recent launch of a biofortification recipe book in Nigeria—a tool to help everyone, including mothers and school cooks, easily incorporate more nutrients into daily meals—AUDA-NEPAD showed their support for biofortification as one of their core interventions to address malnutrition across Africa.
“We are changing the narrative of school feeding programs with the inclusion of biofortified crops, which enrich school meals and provide essentials micronutrients to school children who may not have access to a balanced and nutritious diet at home,” said Kefilwe Rhoba Moalosi, Nutrition Project Manager, AUDA-NEPAD.
The HarvestPlus Nigeria team was subsequently invited by AUDA-NEPAD to a meeting in Ghana in March, to share expertise and a demonstration on integrating biofortified crops in school meals and to present the recipe book as a tool for HGSF programs.
AUDA-NEPAD recognizes the importance of agricultural food-based approaches like biofortification to address malnutrition, especially to reach vulnerable rural populations who primarily depend on farming. Biofortification can help transform food systems to be more nutritious from the farm gate to the food plate, providing a sustainable and accessible means to increase population nutrient intake.
In their Nutrition and Food Systems Implementation Plan, AUDA-NEPAD includes biofortification as one of its flagship programs to address malnutrition. They are providing support for African Union Regional Economic Communities and Member States to develop strategic, coordinated industrial fortification and biofortification interventions.
To this end, AUDA-NEPAD signed a collaborative agreement with HarvestPlus as its technical partner to jointly promote the production and consumption of biofortified crops and foods across Africa as a contributor to healthy, active lives.
The African Union also adopted a hallmark declaration in 2022 to scale up food fortification and biofortification in Africa. The declaration resolved to promote nutrition-sensitive agriculture and encourage public procurement of biofortified foods from farmers, as well as encourage farmer input support programs to incorporate biofortified seeds and training for sustainable impact.
Working together, HarvestPlus and the AUDA-NEPAD invest in advocacy and policy reform and encourage investment to promote the benefits of biofortification to eliminate malnutrition, progressing towards achievement of the long-term Africa Union Agenda 2063 (“The Africa We Want”), its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Numerous African countries including Burundi, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe now have national policies and regulations that include biofortification—efforts that support AUDA-NEPAD’s plan to eliminate malnutrition (including a 25 percent reduction in current levels by 2025), and HarvestPlus’ goal to reach one billion people by 2030 with nutritious biofortified crops and foods.
AUDA-NEPAD commitment to scaling up biofortification is a significant step towards improving the nutrition, health, and well-being of millions of people in Africa and building the Africa we want.
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