Monday, December 07, 2009

‘Nutrition gets low priority’

‘Nutrition gets low priority’

Monday, 07 December 2009 23:18 by Jude Lizama | Variety News Staff

NUTRITION has fallen to a “low level of priority” because of the failure of governments around the world to recognize the pivotal role that malnutrition has on economic performance, according to visiting agronomist Dr. J.D.H. Keatinge.

Keatinge, director general of AVRDC-World Vegetable and Research Development Center, presented “Fighting the Battle Against Poverty & Malnutrition: By Diversifying with Fruit and Vegetable” during a recently held seminar at the University of Guam.

The agronomist’s presentation provided insight into the current landscape of global malnutrition.

Keatinge cited Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lao PDR, Maldives, Philippines, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Vanuatu as countries that are close to, on par with, or slightly above the minimum recommended intake for fruits and vegetables.

In addition, Keatinge said Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Timor-Leste, and the Solomon Islands fall well below 50 percent recommended fruit and vegetable intake levels. All of the countries mentioned had either undernourishment rates above 10 percent, or child underweight rates above 20 percent, or both.

AVRDC follows a “vegetable value chain” that identifies important practices that occur between the lifespan of a vegetable from “seed” until “consumption,” which includes evaluation, testing, breeding, conservation, production, post harvest, markets, and nutrition. Data indicate that out of all horticultural development effort funding; only five percent has been funneled to better post harvest practices, while 95 percent has been used to increase crop production.

Keatinge also cited other agricultural challenges such as the ability to find a large reliable water source in developing countries that is unpolluted and the need to utilize integrated pest management to reduce the heavy use of pesticides on crops worldwide.

Inadequate post harvest grading, washing, packaging, cold storage and other essential infrastructure has increased the concern to find quality control solutions. A 2003 study indicated that between 40 and 50 percent of vegetable crops are lost from “field to shelf” as a result of inadequate postharvest storage and processing.

A 2008 world development report that recommended a focus on “nonfarm income” also represents the failure to recognize global malnutrition and provide widespread solutions.

AVRDC takes part in global research and development in areas such as Taiwan, Thailand, Mali, Niger, Solomon Islands, Cameroon, Laos, Niger, Tanzania, India, and Madagascar.

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