Hunger is on the rise and the number of undernourished people has returned to levels from almost a decade ago. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the number of people facing chronic food deprivation has risen to nearly 821 million in 2017, compared to 804 million the year before. In Central and West Africa alone, about 98.9 million people are undernourished.
In parallel, obesity is a global health issue that has nearly tripled worldwide since 1975, according to the World Health Organization. In Africa, obesity rates are rapidly increasing, particularly in urban areas.
World Food Day, with the theme ‘zero hunger world by 2030 is possible’ reminds us of the imperative to put people’s wellbeing at the heart of our food system.
The solutions exist. What we need now, is for all stakeholders, from farm to fork, to join hands so that everyone in Africa can thrive and live a healthier, happier life.
Affordable nutrition for all
At the top of the agenda is a demand to make healthy, nutritious and affordable food accessible to everyone on the African continent.
Harnessing the power of the private sector, Partners in Food Solutions works the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dangoté and TechnoServe in Nigeria to combat malnutrition by promoting fortified foods for local markets, as part of the Strengthening African Processors of Fortified Foods project.
In Central and West Africa, Nestlé is also helping to do this through its well-known brands, such as Maggi, Milo and Nido. Last year, it sold 67 billion fortified food servings most of which were ‘popularly positioned products’, i.e. smaller servings of affordable nutrition.
Decent living for all food workers
This is critical to encourage more investment at every step along the food value chain, and to ensure the sustainability of our food supply in Africa. Central to this is the creation of good jobs and provision of decent living conditions for all food workers.
To encourage the generations to come to continue farming, farmers must earn a decent living. Investing in local food transformation is also important to boost local employment while reducing food waste and increasing the affordability of food and beverages.
Working with independent partners like the Fair Labor Association, International Cocoa Initiative, World Cocoa Foundation and UTZ Certified, the Nestlé Cocoa Plan in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana helps farmers to live a better life by increasing profitability through training programmes and addressing issues such as child labour, gender inequality and poor social conditions.
Seed the future
Research & development is also critical. Focusing on the production of foods that are more nutritious, increasing yield and producing climate resistant crops will go a long way in ensuring that there is sufficient food to feed the population in 2050.
HarvestPlus develops and promotes biofortified food crops that are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals. Partnerships with the private sector helps sustain its impact. Nestlé is leveraging this pioneering work by integrating biofortified maize richer in vitamin A in one of its beloved brand in Nigeria, Golden Morn.
Guiding consumers to make the right food choices is the last frontier. Including nutrition education in school curriculums, building parents’ health knowledge and providing easy to understand nutrition information on packages are easy ways to help families adopt healthier diets.
Call to action
Overall, there is a need for multi-stakeholders to work closer with each other.
Governments can create a conducive environment for a healthy, sustainable food system through the right regulatory & policy framework.
Food companies can further the nutritional value of their products by fortifying them with vitamins and minerals, renovating them to include more fruits and vegetables, promoting nutritious foods choices through their close relationships with consumers and adopting responsible marketing practices such as the Nestlé Policy on Marketing Communication to Children.
Retailers can also make healthier foods more visible and more attractive at point of purchase and reduce impulsive purchase of foods that are high in salt, fat and sugar.
Investing in nutrition and focusing on the health, means nurturing healthier future generations, healthier future populations and wealthier economies.
With a purpose of enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future, Nestlé will continue to play its part, and advocate for collaboration by all actors to build sustainable food systems. There is no doubt that businesses are a vital part of the solution to achieve a zero hunger world by 2030.