Millions of people in Africa and Asia suffer not so much from a lack of food, but from a lack of healthy food. Simply put, fruits and vegetables are more expensive and less readily available than less nutrient-rich food.
In addition, agricultural policies and development programmes have for too long focused almost exclusively on grain and vegetables like onions and tomatoes, and not on the much healthier leafy vegetables.
This has to change, as researchers from the Wageningen University Netherlands, have released a study examining the state of vegetable and fruit consumption in low- and middle-income countries and the food systems of several countries, including Nigeria.
The study considered fruit and vegetable consumption and production as part of the food system of low- and middle-income countries, with a more detailed examination of seven low-wage countries. The global study and seven-country studies were commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which works towards improving nutrition across the globe and contracted Wageningen University & Research to conduct this study.
The researchers first mapped trends in global and regional food systems, with a focus on South Asia and East and West Africa. Among many findings, three prominent conclusions stand out.
The first: vegetable and fruit consumption in these regions is too low to prevent the risk of malnutrition, and this problem affects all layers of society. The second: consumer prices for fruits and vegetables are high, and availability is too low, leading to households being unable to afford healthy food. And the third: there are many obstacles preventing women from earning more money by producing, selling and processing fruits and vegetables. These obstacles are part of a broader issue: the inequality women face in agriculture.
As a result of not eating enough fruits and vegetables, the people in these regions of the world do not consume enough nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
This is partially the legacy of the past, says Bart de Steenhuijsen Piers, researcher at Wageningen University and Research: “For many years, policy and research focused on providing the global population with enough calories, primarily from grain. So far, very little attention has been devoted to nutrients.” Mirage News