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Ahead of the commemoration of the 11th Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS), Nutrition International led a Technical Dialogue on October 29. This dialogue examined the potential of innovative interventions to improve food and nutrition security in Africa, discussed the lessons learned from implementing interventions during the COVID-19 pandemic, and made recommendations to partners and governments to ensure food and nutrition security.

Nutrition International was the team lead for the virtual event, which was held in partnership with the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres (CGIAR), Research Program on Agriculture for Health and Nutrition (A4NH), HarvestPlus, International Potato Center, the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The session highlighted three areas where innovation in the delivery of interventions would deliver impact. Dr. Jackie Kung’u, Regional Advisor Research and Evaluation, Nutrition International Africa, delivered a presentation on innovative strategies around fortification and supplementation. The other presenters were Dr. Namukolo Covic, Research Coordinator at A4NH, who presented strategies for biofortification, and Dr. Victor Owino, Nutrition Specialist, IAEA, who concentrated on monitoring and evaluation tools.

Following the presentations, a second panel brought together speakers from the government and private sector to reflect on challenges or additional opportunities that could be leveraged to ensure more effective implementation of these interventions. Speakers included:

  • Veronica Kirogo, Head of Nutrition and Dietetics, Kenya Ministry of Health
  • Freddie Mubanga, focal person for Multisectoral Nutrition Action, National Food and Nutrition Commission, Zambia
  • Adeyinka Onabola, Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Nigeria
  • Abdulaye Ka, Coordinator, Cellule de Lutte contre la Malnutrition, and SUN Focal Point, Senegal
  • Engidu Legesse, Co-founder and General Manager, Guts Agro Industry

More than 100 participants attended the session, including researchers, food and nutrition security program implementers, government officials, representatives from the private sector and academia. Dr. Richard Pendame, Nutrition International’s regional director for Africa, moderated the panels.

Following the discussions, recommendations emerged for how these innovative ideas could be adapted:

Food systems transformation and biofortification

  1. African countries must use the evidence being generated on the continent to inform the needed food system transformations.
  2. African countries must engage with the African food safety index with the objective of enhancing food safety systems to promote food safety and traceability over time.
  3. African countries must adopt and adapt technologies and farming practices such as biofortification to protect their nutritional status against shocks such as COVID-19.

Staple fortification and supplementation

  1. African countries must prioritize nutrition in national COVID-19 response plans and strategies to ensure continuity and scale-up of high-impact nutrition interventions.
  2. African countries must be guided by evidence-based decision-making around potential program shifts during shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure intensification of nutrition services, such as supplementation, by seeking alternative delivery methods, like community-based personnel, to deliver services.
  3. African countries must seize the opportunity to adopt innovative solutions, such as the inclusion of fortified foods in COVID-19 social safety net programs to address malnutrition and reach vulnerable populations.

Innovative monitoring and evaluation to track progress

  1. African countries should invest in accurate nutritional assessment tools that can add value to tracking nutrition targets within the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063.
  2. African countries should put in place strategies to scale up the uptake of innovative nutritional assessment tools, including stable isotope techniques, to generate accurate data and to validate routine methods in the context of national nutrition surveys.
  3. African countries should consider both human and physical capacity to use innovative nutritional assessment tools, including stable isotope techniques, to add value to nutrition assessment.

The recommendations were presented by Dr. Pendame at the 2020 Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security main event on October 30. Some were also included in the ADFNS 2020 communiqué.