Experts and practitioners come together to improve nutrition outcomes in agricultural development in West and Central Africa

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By Murimi Gitari, November 28, 2023, Experts and practitioners are meeting in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire for a regional knowledge and experience sharing workshop that addresses nutrition, rural development and food system transformation with the aim of exploring solutions to optimize the contribution of agriculture to nutrition in the context of food systems in West and Central Africa (WCA).

It is estimated that 29.8% of the population of West Africa and 13.9% of the population of Central Africa are undernourished.

For three days, representatives of rural development projects co-financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) together with governments, partners and other stakeholders will discuss on nutrition-sensitive interventions and approaches IFAD’s nutrition action plan (2019-2025) and the capacity development plan for mainstreaming nutrition in IFAD investments.

In the region children under 5 have high rates of stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies. The adult population is also faced with high rates of micronutrient deficiencies; pregnant and breastfeeding women are often underweight; and the growing prevalence of overweight and obesity is contributing to an increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

“In our region, a shift towards more sustainable food systems and healthier diets for the population is definitely achievable. However, many factors, such as the lack of targeted investments, poor infrastructure, the impact of climate change on agriculture, and the high cost of a healthy diet, often prevents people from getting the food they need,” said Bernard Hien, Regional Director, West and Central Africa, IFAD.

“We are working hard to improve food security and increase the consumption of diverse and nutritious food. Supporting women and youth in their endeavours, particularly in the processing and marketing of nutritious products is one of our key priorities in nutrition interventions and it contributes greatly to our broader development objectives. I am very much looking forward to this workshop which offers an excellent opportunity to share learning and good practices among key actors of the region,” he added.

Participants will also share best practices for nutrition-sensitive approaches, take advantage of peer-to-peer learning, and overall strengthen capacity to deliver nutrition-sensitive interventions. Around 85 participants, including representatives from 27 nutrition-sensitive projects in the WCA region, are taking part in the workshop.

Any progress in fighting malnutrition in the region must contend with the increasing effects of climate change, conflicts, and environmental degradation. In this context, governments do not always have sufficient adaptive capacities at national and sub-national levels to deal with the impact on nutrition. Besides investing with its Member States in the region to address nutrition and food systems transformation, IFAD also is engaged in country, regional and global policy platforms, and is a leading advocate for the role of small-scale agriculture in food systems and potential to help address problems of malnutrition, not only regionally but in the world’s food and nutrition security overall.

Over the past five years, IFAD has made significant progress in mainstreaming nutrition in its investment portfolio. The proportion of IFAD projects expected to support nutrition-sensitive interventions has increased from 33% in the Tenth Replenishment period of IFAD to 60% in the current (IFAD12) three-year replenishment cycle. In addition, the priority given to young people and women are enabling them to develop and manage agri-food businesses, among other actions that contribute to greater food and nutrition security.

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