Strengthening collaborations among institutions and small-scale cassava farmers could help Central Africa reduce hunger and foster nutrition security, experts say.
Research scientists from academic institutions and policymakers say that collaborations in research and development would promote innovation to address the challenges of nutrition insecurity such as stunting in children.
The experts were speaking at a forum on cassava that brought delegates and smallholders farmers in Cameroon to discuss the challenges and opportunities in cassava farming in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon.
“Nutrition insecurity is a real problem in Central Africa affecting many households.”
Judith Francis, CTA
The forum was organised by the Netherlands-headquartered Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) in partnership with Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and Nigerian-headquartered International Institute for Tropical Agriculture.
Bringing together the main actors in the cassava value chain in Central Africa to have a common agenda to be addressed by researchers, policy makers and financiers was the key objective of the forum that took place in Cameroon early this month (6-9 December). The forum also provided a platform for trade between smallholders and potential buyers of cassava.
The experts were concerned that despite efforts to achieving food security in the region, little is being done to address undernutrition, especially stunting and a rise in non-communicable diseases.
They noted that understanding the nexus between agriculture, food and nutrition has become a research and development priority.
“Nutrition insecurity is a real problem in Central Africa affecting many households,” says Judith Francis.
Francis, who is a senior programmes coordinator, science and technology policy, CTA, tells SciDev.Net that well-coordinated collaborations among organisations are necessary to help address nutritional challenges.
She adds that cassava has a lot of nutritive value with its leaves rich in vitamin A and minerals such as potassium which could help address stunting problems he the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases including diabetes.
“But we need accurate and timely data on nutrition to be collected in Central Africa to help address the challenge,” explains Francis, adding that the forum has helped raise the profile of cassava as an important nutrition security crop.
Ben Bennet, the director of UK-headquartered Natural Resources Institute, adds that there is a need to continue educating people on the nutritional values of cassava.
Bennet urges African governments to play a central role in coordinating individuals and institutions to drive the nutrition security agenda in Central Africa.