University of Pretoria launches Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being

Posted on May 30, 2012

The Institute for Food, Nutrition and Well-being (IFNuW) was officially launched at UP on Monday. Ms Sheila Sisulu, Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme, was the guest speaker. IFNuW gives momentum to the fight against hunger, malnutrition and disease by offering more than 100 researchers from five faculties and more than 30 academic departments, units and centres an opportunity to work beyond traditional knowledge boundaries.

These researchers, the largest collaborative group of its kind, are all actively contributing to diverse fields of study ranging from food production, animal diseases, African crops and probiotics to diabetes, laws on consumer protection and schools as agents of behavioural change.

To quote the Director of the Institute, Prof Sheryl Hendriks from the Department of Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences: “Research over the past 30 plus years has taught us a great deal about the causes of hunger and poverty. Yet, in comparison, the world knows very little about how to solve hunger and poverty.”

According to Prof Hendriks, IFNuW seeks to address underlying vulnerabilities and find ways of building a more resilient agriculture and food system to reduce hunger and malnutrition and promote consumption behaviour that will ensure human productivity and overall well-being.

The appropriateness of and need for research at the interface of production, food safety, health, nutrition and economics is evident when one considers recent global and African crises that have highlighted the world’s limited ability to solve complex and often recurring problems in the agriculture and food system.

“Tackling these problems requires innovative approaches to research beyond traditional knowledge silos and demands creative ways of communicating the scientific findings to policy makers and communities,” said Prof Hendriks. “Transdisciplinary enquiry encourages active research conducted by teams of experts from different disciplines working beyond traditional knowledge boundaries to create new knowledge and solve complex problems.”

The activities of the Institute are organised around five research areas. Team leaders and prominent academics include Professors Ned Donkin, John Taylor, Ronél Ferreira, Lise Korsten, Johann Kirsten, Hettie Schönfeldt and Sheryl Hendriks. Five very successful academic indabas preceded the official opening function on Monday.

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