Nelly Bassily | January 13, 2014
Many foods contain proteins which, along with carbohydrates and fats, vitamins and minerals, are the main building blocks in the diet of humans and other animals. Although the body can create some nutrients itself, we depend on the foods we eat for our essential nutrients, and to avoid malnutrition.
Malnutrition is defined as the condition that develops when the body does not get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. The term is commonly used to refer to people who do not have enough to eat, or are undernourished. But those who are over-nourished, or overweight, can also be malnourished if they do not consume enough essential vitamins and minerals. This can be caused by a lack of variety in the diet. Infants, young children, and pregnant or breastfeeding women need larger quantities of some nutrients. They are therefore more susceptible to malnutrition. So avoiding malnutrition is not only about eating more, it is about eating better. In many cases, “better” means a more varied diet.
Maize is the third most important cereal crop for direct consumption in the world (after rice and wheat), and is one of the most popular staple crops in many africancountries. Quality protein maize, or QPM, is a traditionally-bred maize with higher levels of protein. QPM has been proven to reduce stunted growth and malnutrition in children. Farm Radio International works on projects which contribute to the adoption of QPM in Uganda and Ethiopia, collaborating with radio stations to develop programs in maize-growing regions on nutrition, the benefits of a diversified diet, and the possibility of growing QPM. You can read more about the project in Ethiopia here: http://www.farmradio.org/portfolio/nutritious-maize-for-ethiopian-children-2/
Here are some recent Farm Radio Weekly stories related to nutrition:
From September 2013 comes More food means more girls in school (FRW #261), which can be read here: http://weekly.farmradio.org/2013/09/23/mali-more-food-means-more-girls-in-school-allafrica/
Zimbabwe: Women grow better lives near the city (FRW 168, August 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/08/15/zimbabwe-women-grow-better-lives-near-the-city-by-zenzele-ndebele-for-farm-radio-weekly-in-zimbabwe/
Mali: Traditional healers join fight against malnutrition (FRW 165, July 2011) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2011/07/25/mali-traditional-healers-join-fight-against-malnutrition-irin/
Two publications might be of interest to those who want to research this subject further. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Bioversity International have produced a book, Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity. The book is available to download through this address: http://www.fao.org/food/sustainable-diets-and-biodiversity/en/ (find the link at the bottom of the page). The second publication is a joint production of FAO and the World Health Organization. Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases (WHO, 2003) can be downloaded via this address: ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/005/ac911e/ac911e00.pdf
For more information about malnutrition, please visit these sites:
The website of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) also provides useful background information: http://www.gainhealth.org/about-malnutrition
GAIN is a memberof a partnership called Thousand Days, which promotes investment in improved nutrition for mothers and children in the 1,000 day period from pregnancy to age two. According to the GAIN website, better nutrition during this period can have a life-changing impact on a child: http://www.thousanddays.org/
In FRRP #65 (October 2002), Farm Radio International produced scripts on food and nutrition. You can view these scripts here: http://www.farmradio.org/radio-resource-packs/package-65-food-and-nutrition-education/. You can browse the rest of the FRI script archive here: http://www.farmradio.org/radio-resource-packs/
Poor nutrition and hunger are all too common in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in rural areas. You might wish to produce a program that covers the basic facts of nutrition and malnutrition, how to recognize and treat symptoms of malnutrition, or how to prevent malnutrition and promote good nutrition. As well as presenting facts, ask women and men farmers what they understand by malnutrition, and try to identify and clarify any misconceptions. Why not interview health experts, or NGO workers that work on nutrition and health? You could also explore the links between agriculture and nutrition, such as growing fruits and vegetables to diversify diets. It is a huge topic, so be creative!