Food system transformation is essential to attain the Sustainable Development Goals

Posted on February 19, 2018

In partnership with other leading organisations, the Quadram Institute recently organised a workshop to help researchers from across Africa exploit food composition data, improve local nutrition policies and public health advice.

The workshop was hosted by the newly confirmed African Research University Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Food Security, led by the University of Pretoria in collaboration with the University of Ghana and the University of Nairobi. The workshop brought together scientists, nutritionists and policy-makers from 11 African countries to share best practice in generating reliable, standardised data on the composition of foods, and to set up networks to share data online.

This data, and the tools to access and exploit it, underpin the development and implementation of local food and nutrition policies, regulatory measures, labelling and health advice.

The Quadram Institute (UK), Wageningen University (Netherlands), the University of Pretoria and EuroFIR AISBL (Belgium) contributed to this event, which was funded through the Research Councils UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund. The aim of the Fund is to ensure that UK research takes a leading role in addressing the problems faced by developing countries.

Over the course of the five-day workshop, participants received expert training in designing sampling protocols, calculating nutrient values, assessing data quality, and using appropriate tools for the compilation, management and sharing of data.

Through working closely with regional networks, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization International Network of Food Data Systems’ AFROFOODS network, outcomes from the workshop will benefit not just the participants, but also the wider community of public health researchers who rely on this data. These networks will also provide a conduit for future training and capacity-building, by hosting online information resources and e-learning, and facilitating scientist exchanges.

‘We hope that this workshop will help to build local capacity in food composition data management that will benefit countries across Africa,’ said Paul Finglas, head of the Quadram Institute’s Food Databanks National Capability and President of EuroFIR. ‘By giving researchers the knowledge and tools to generate data that matches shared standards, we can get more up-to-date data online and searchable so that it can provide a sound basis for nutrition and public health advice.’

According to the 2017 Global Nutrition Report, nutrition programmes have a $16 return of investment to the dollar. According to Hettie Schönfeldt, director of the ARUA Centre of Excellence for Food Security, ‘Towards attaining the 169 targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals approved by each of our governments,targeted approaches to facilitate agricultural and food system transformation are as essential as partnerships in research and innovation to attain sustainable food security and nutrition in Africa and elsewhere.’

- Author Department of University Relations

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