As climate change continues to wreak havoc on food security in Africa, InnoFoodAfrica hopes to emerge as a champion of food equality on the continent. The initiative is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme and includes branches in Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, and South Africa.
Professor Naushad Emmambux from the University of Pretoria (UP), an expert in food science, tells Food For Mzansi journalist Nicole Ludolph, that the work done through InnoFoodAfrica looks into food and nutrition security using indigenous Sub-Saharan crops. Emmambux and his team at UP have been tasked to look into innovative ways to improve nutrition.
“In terms of nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, some people talk about the double burden or triple burden of malnutrition. [This] is really about undernutrition that mostly affects children.”
Emmambux says that nearly 30% of Mzansi’s kids are affected by the lack adequate nutrition that could lead to child stunting.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), child stunting is defined as the impaired growth and development that children experience due to poor nutrition, repeated infection and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.
“We found out people use a lot of maize meal in the diets of babies, as well as cereal-based foods,” he says.
This is what causes a micronutrient deficiency, exacerbating the double burden of malnutrition. “The triple burden is really over-nutrition because of the energy-dense food, where people eat a lot of carbohydrates or a lot of fatty food, especially saturated fat from fast food. Takeaways are a cheaper alternative and people don’t have time to cook at home,” explains Emmambux.
Improving food security and nutrition is a mammoth task, so to ensure that the project meets its objectives, it is divided into seven “work packages”. The work packages tackle different functions within the food systems, each working towards the ultimate project vision, food security.
Equal access to all
InnoFoodAfrica has also partnered with the UP’s Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Professor Shakila Dada, centre director, says the focus of their work is to ensure that the knowledge is translated effectively.
“When translating knowledge from the sciences or from research, so that people can actually understand it, there’s a couple of things that we try to do. [Firstly] we’re looking at the level of language. We try to make reading materials at a Grade 6 reading level.”
Dada explains that they use methods that borrow from the field of disability education, like the use of graphics. The graphics are catered specifically to people with low literacy levels.
Translation, how-to videos, audio clips, and animations are all included in their work to make the information accessible to the people it is aimed at, says Dada.
“These are the various ways that we’re looking at making the information more accessible, and actually impacting the communities that we are working with, and are direct or indirect stakeholders in the project.”