On November 18th, 2017 African Union member states commemorated the Africa day for food and nutrition security (ADFNS) in Abidjan. One of the key issues that have plagued the African continent and more so in the current decade is famine. As a result, millions of Africans have been subjected to prolonged hunger and acute malnutrition. In lieu of the above, the AU launched the Africa day for food and nutrition that is commemorated on an annual basis. This annual platform brings different stakeholders together to discuss methods of optimizing the food systems to enhance food and nutritional security. The theme of this commemorative day was “advancing sustainable food systems for healthy diets and improved nutrition’.
Food insecurity has several negative ramifications including nutrition insecurity. Available food is just not enough. African governments have thus proactively mainstreamed policies in their food systems to ensure that they are nutritionally balanced. This is in alignment with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and with global nutrition targets. To facilitate the attainment of these objectives, the Africa day for food and nutrition security was set aside to address food and nutrition security. This year’s theme focused on how food systems can be advanced sustainably to improve nutrition through four key sub-themes.
The first subtheme focused on supply side and in particular, the accessibility/affordability of nutritious foods. Africa is currently focusing on sustainable agricultural production in the light of diminishing natural resources and climate change. These include the increased uptake of aquaculture and climate-smart agriculture. This notwithstanding, the first sub-theme emphasizes on the production of nutritious and healthy foods as opposed to ultra-processed foods. A call for nutrition dense foods thus enhances nutritional security and mitigates the occurrence of lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity that is attributable to unhealthy foods.
Held in Abidjan, ADFNS also focused on demand-side policies. Undoubtedly, consumerism can contribute to the uptake of unhealthy foods. This sub-theme was thus a call for advocacy on making the right dietary choices. Regulation was also established to be important to, for instance, through proper labeling of calorific contents. Legislators are important in this and to the support offered for socio-behavioral advocacy. The 2017 ADFNS also highlighted the importance of incorporating nutrition education in schools.
The 2017 conference also highlighted the need of empowering women, as a precursor to achieving nutrition/food security. Women in Africa play a critical role in preserving indigenous food systems, particularly of nutrient-dense foods. The Abidjan conference also made a call to governments to commit their resources to nutritional security. This is because deficiencies in nutrition, particularly in children, can act as a harbinger of future problems such as lack of socio-economic growth.