Linking agricultural production to nutrition

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Nutrition directly links to agriculture. We need the agriculture sector to produce food that we can access and that provides us with the nutrients we need for our day to day health, survival and productivity. But that is not the whole story really as there are other factors that drive nutrition and not directly linked to agriculture per se for example health, water and sanitation. However the bottom line is that without food, there can be little if any sustained life and optimum nutrition.Thus what remains critical is that the way agriculture produces and gets food to the households, should be in a diverse way to provide the adequate range of essential nutrients to best address all forms of malnutrition.

For any human being to perfom better, there is need for nutrition to take course. Example in most African countries, a subsistence farmer or small holder farmer depend on human power for agriculture production. Therefore a human being should be well nourished to give better results. Nutrition is a key to better health, without nutrition a human body will be malnourished and results to unhealthy body of which there will be problems interms of manpower. This can affect agriculture production.

Hello everyone,

We are in the second week of our e-discussion. Welcome to those who have just joined us. We believe you will catch up on the discussion we had last week without neglecting the current one of course.

This week we are discussing the link between agricultural production and nutrition. We have two experts @bibi and @kinabonutrition who will respond to any questions you might have on this. @bibi and @monica already started the discussion.

I would like to draw your attention to two resources from the FAO in relation to this topic:

These resources and our experts contribution will assist you as you discuss.


Dear Experts and fellow discussants on this platform.

I am very excited to have such a wonderful topic to discuss: “The link between Agricultural Production and Nutrition”.

After reading the two resources accessed from the links that Busi has provided, i now take the opportunity to share with you what i feel about this topic with reference to my country Uganda.

Uganda’s economy relies entirely on agriculture. Indeed, the saying goes: "Agriculture is the back-bone of Uganda’s economy. So Uganda is an agriculture led economy. The sector (Agriculture) employs over 85% of the population who derive their livelihood from subsistence farming and other agriculture related activities like rearing of animals, poultry, apiary and fishing. However, you will discover that this is far from reality.

Uganda is said to be growing at an average rate of between 6-8 percent, whatever the case anyway! Additionally, the country is running a Development Plan that is to last up to 2030. The Plan focuses mainly on Agriculture and Development. The Plan is in line with the government’s programmes that have been running which include among others; Poverty Alleviation programme (PAP), Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA) then National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) which recently changed to run under Operation Wealth Creation (OWC). These will be explained at a later stage.

To borrow info from the “Action in Countries resource” provided, Uganda has had a component of Farmer Field Schools under its Agriculture Plans. At least, i can testify that a number of farmers (model farmers) including technical teams were selected from various districts of Uganda and were trained as Trainers. Those farmers who benefited out of it could have moved a step ahead since they gained skills in good farming practices that made them reap highly from their farms. But what i would like to say is; such a programme was not felt by many farmers. They still suffer the problem of food shortage thereby posing a challenge of malnutrition and deficiencies.

From the same report (Action in Countries), fish farming is highlighted as being one of the main activities that can contribute to fish production mainly for food value. An example cited in this resource is Somalia where we see that the fish industry is not yet ventured into so much partly due to conflicts!
Uganda as a country is endowed by water bodies whereby fish catch was initially very good and people were really enjoying eating fish freely got from the water bodies or bought cheaply. History has changed in that most Ugandans just admire fish since it has become the most expensive food or source. Government has given leeway to the Private Investors in this sector who have limited the inhabitants to carry out any fishing activities anyhow on the waters. Most of the fish is sold outside the country! Government is now trying to encourage the local people to venture into fish farming; something new and expensive to many! Fish has really reduced in Uganda and becomes expensive for the locals making many especially women and children miss on the food value found in fish.

Another issue to talk about is the challenge of pests and diseases that attack almost every crop in Uganda. Research Organizations and farmers themselves try to deal with such a big challenge but the task ahead is big! Scientists say they have come up with strains or varieties of maize, beans, potatoes and other varieties that are genetically modified to provide food nutrients as well as guard against the diseases and hash weather conditions. But this is being resisted by the politicians, activists and some farmers who say these varieties are not good for health. So many of them (varieties) can not be commissioned thereby making people lose out on food nutrients like Vitamin A found in foods like the Yellow Fresh sweet potato and some beans which are vital to guarantee immunity especially in children. Some media practitioners/media houses have tried to promote some of the products from research especially those that are propagated using other means that are not genetic modification, but people still resist this.

To utilize the Key recommendations for “Improving Nutrition through Agriculture and Food resource” that you experts for this platform have provided for this discussion, i would specifically mention the point (number 6) on Empowerment of women by ensuring access to productive resources, income opportunities, labour and time saving technologies including energy and water services. This is key in production of food in big quantity and good quality required. In Uganda still, there is a similar programme being piloted in some seven districts. It promotes Conservation Agriculture -where farmers do not labour so much to produce food. No weeding! Farmers just slash or use herbicides to suppress the weed! Farmers use less energy and yet they reap more!
In conservation agriculture, farmers dig basins-which are simply holes that they use for many seasons to plant either maize, beans, soybeans, ground nuts and many other crops. The farmers have acquired skills whereby they integrate livestock into farming thereby creating synergy. In other words, they rear animals and chicken which they feed with their farm produce like maize and maize stalks. In turn, the animals and chicken/birds give wastes which the farmers use to make fertilizers. The fertilizers are put in the gardens to get high, quality produce for food for home consumption, for income and for animals. The most important thing is; they get plenty and variety of food to eat at home. That’s ; they eat eggs, chicken, take milk and slaughter animals like goats on some occasions and eat thereby getting nutrients from such foods. This kind of practice for the farmers can guarantee good health for the population

To comment on number 2 in the same resource which talks about malnutrition and deficiencies: this programme is likely to benefit Uganda since the National Strategic Framework for Sustainable Land use was recently launched in Uganda to cover the whole country. However, this requires more support from all other partners in development so as to benefit the population.

This is what i can share on this at the moment. Hope to share more from colleagues on the platform.

Hello all,

Thank you Sarah for giving us detailed information on what is happening in Uganda with regard to agricultural production and nutrition especially in relation to the resources we have shared.

I would like to challenge others to contribute in this discussion. We are currently discussing the link between agricultural production and nutrition. What is your understanding of this? What is happening in your area?

@victorasumani @MartinMwape @Mnyamezeli_Black_Mpu @Wezzie1989 @mwamodo @mansu75 @birhanu @danielDWET @Pauline @rehema we are waiting for your contributions and questions.

Just to my understanding Nutrition is linked to Agricultural prediction in the way that for a farmer to go and cultivate he/she needs to be healthy and strong enough.

So the issue of Nutrition in Agriculture is very unique and needs to be practiced or incorporated now and again.
Like in the case of my country Malawi, the Millennium Development Growth Strategy (MDGS)2 Says Agriculture is the ENGINE of the economy of the country, which means without agriculture then the country economy will be poor.

All in all the link is that there is need for farmers who are the main players of the Malawi`s economy to be healthy and strong with nutritious foods if we want to meet the MDGS.

Hello Victor @victorasumani

I am still trying to follow up on your point, you say farmers need to be healthy to be able to meet the MDGs. What exactly can make these farmers healthy and strong? Can you also try to think in terms of agricultural production contributing to good nutrition?

Here in Ethiopian context the main problem is not lack of nutritious foods but farmers sell all what they grow and feed their children one or two kinds of food all the year. Why is diversified nutrition important?

Ok Bussi,
The need for farmers to be healthy lies in their own hands. Why have i said so/? In Malawi many farmers used to grow different types of crops but during harvesting period they have tendency of selling all produce which lead them not having enough foods for consumption.

Secondly many many farmers mostly grow one type of crop which may end up them having one food crops at the end agricultural calendar. This again might lead to the lack of nutritious foods in the body of them farmers.
So what these farmers must do always is to grow different varieties ranging from vegetables,fruits legumes and other cereals, an the end of the season they should make sure that they keep some for their own consumption. If they follow this then their bodies will be improved always.

Thank you @Danieldwet for this question. I am sure our experts @Bibi and @kinabonutrition will give us detail as to why diversified nutrition is important.

Hello everyone,

We would have loved to hear other people’s views on this topic, linking agricultural production to nutrition, however, we did not. We had shared two resources, one on key recommendations for improving nutrition through agriculture and food systems and the other one gives us information on actions taken by different countries that help improve nutrition and livelihoods.

@smawerere gave us an understanding of how things are in her country Uganda especially in relation to these resources. Sarah even went on and suggested the empowerment of women, I quote

At the same time @monica and @victorasumani’s seem to agree that it is important to have healthy farmers who eat nutritious foods so that they can sustain the economy through increased agricultural production, as most African countries are dependent on agriculture. On the other hand, @DanielDWET shared what is happening in his country

In all this and as our expert @Bibi had started the discussion, there is a direct link between agricultural production and nutrition :

If you have not yet had time to contribute, we would like to hear your views.

Linking Agriculture to nutrition
We know that good nutrition comes from food and we also know that people get energy and good health from food without which there would be no life. When food is available and food which is nutritious people would be able to get food health. But where food is scarce people especially children will starve and suffer from malnutrition. Lack of proper diet harms a person from a time when they are in their mother’s wombs therefore pregnant women should feed well on balanced diet and sufficient food in order for them to produce /give birth to health babies, otherwise babies born to mothers who lack good food may suffer permanent problems with physical and mental development such as mental degradation, being weakly, sickly etc. Children born to sub starving mothers lack breast milk which is an essential meal for babies in their first two years but now it is very difficult to find a woman who can breast feed for even six months and this contributes to children/babies getting numerous infectious diseases constantly, such as coughs, colds, flu, pneumonia etc. It is therefore very important that pregnant women feed well so as to be able to breast feed for a longer time and also families need to be empowered to drive poverty out of their midst so that they can buy/avail themselves with balanced meals.
Regarding programs put in place by the government of Uganda such as National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), Modernization of agriculture, Poverty Alleviation Programs and others are there with the aim of ensuring that people produce both quality and enough food. If food is availed in plenty people will have enough food to eat thus good health, variety and surplus for sale.
But in instances where these programs have not created impact for example NAADS, man people remain hungry and poor as well as being weak in that they can hardly do anything meaning full leave alone farming because they lack the proper food nutrients in the body.
NAADS failed in its functions because it was poorly designed and even the handling was not the best because funds were swindled by the implementer. In its design it failed because it was planned to start as a project to benefit just 20 homesteads per a sub county yet these were very few, it should have been planned for every homestead in a sub county so that everybody would get the Agricultural and financial education and also be able to apply it on their various income generating activities which included agricultural farming, poultry farming, piggery, livestock raring etc. Instead the 20 homesteads were very few to make an impact. It did not increase food supply so that the linkage between food production/Agriculture and nutrition. This is where broadcasters should increase information and education on best ways to curb hunger and to increase production.
Another program being run by government emphasizes that farmers move from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture. This program would be very good but it has challenges because people/farmers need agricultural machineries which require lots of money, expert’s knowledge and financial resources, farm inputs like seeds, equipment like hoes, friendly technology which does not require a lot of manual labor like agricultural machinery like harvesters. The Uganda government should committee itself to avail some of these requirements free of charge to the farmers or maybe at subsidized so that they (Farmers) can get profit as well as enough food to eat and feed their families.
If farmers earn a lot from farming/agriculture, this will entice others to join the profession instead of shunning from it as is the young generation/the youth, who are very many in number and most of them do not have jobs but instead they prefer to get quick money. In Uganda, it is now a common practice all over the country to sell their ancestral land to purchase motorcycles which they use as taxis to transport people where motor vehicles would have been used. These motorcycles and bicycles popularly known as “Boda Boda” cost lots of money yet they are not secure nor safe because they are target for thieves who use clobbers to hit heads of their riders leaving them dead or wounded beyond recovery and sometimes they get mental diseases which make them ran mad and even the fact that their cycles which cost them a lot of money had been stolen does not save the matter.

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Dear Daniel this is very good question. Diversified diet provides various different nutrients that are needed by the body to be able to function properly. In addition utilisation of nutrients in the body depend very much on the availability of other nutrients. For example absorption of iron from plant food sources depend on the availability of vitamin C rich foods, similarly transportation of iron in the blood requires the presence of protein. Therefore a diversified diet with various types of foods will facilitate absorption, transportation and utilisation.

Obviously agriculture can provide for nutrition. However, we have to increase production of diversified foods and consume the foods in order to improve our nutritional wellbeing. It is sad that the young people who could be instrumental in this endeavor have chosen a different pathway. The issue is how can we increase demand of foods to encourage investment in agriculture by young people in Africa. I see a lot of potential but then rain dependent agriculture may not take us far. Innovative initiatives in agriculture will be much welcomed.

We need to encourage farmers to produce diversified crops for the very reasons that you have identified. This should be coupled with empowering them with knowledge and skills on utilization (processing and preparation) of the foods for consumption also the importance of the foods in the body and for their health. I believe that if this is made clear many farmers will start to diversify their production. How much have we done to assist farmers to produce diversified crops. What is the level of understanding of extension officers about nutrition/nutrient needs and linking it to production. The training of agric. extension workers and nutritionists should include linking agric to nutrition outcomes.

Here is how I will include the Nutrition slot in my farmers’ program. I also discussed something on Gender and nutrition. I had sent all this but it bounced back, I typed it on my phone.

The Nutrition Radio slot in ‘Kilimo Bora’ Program on UBC Radio (60 Minutes)
I will add a slot in my program of 15 minutes; call it Nutrition and Health Tips’ where I will talk about nutrition in general. I will have to do it in such a way that the farmers do not get bored, in other words, I will make it interesting by adding a lot of formats of presentations to the program. It will be during the last 20 minutes of the program. The different formats will be linked by some bridge music or stings of 2 -3 seconds.
In the slot, I will have some 4 minutes of “just good feeding and its impotence”. In this I will urge farmers to grow food and eat it too, because a healthy body has the power to think and the strength to till the land.
I will create a 4 minutes piece for voice bites/interviews where people, both men and women, will be testifying about their food/meals and how they are health wise. Therefore both the sick and healthy people will be hosted in this slot.
Drama is the most effective way of communication, thus, in this slot, I will have a short play of 3 – 4 minutes, whose title will be “On the farm”, where and the theme will be the importance of eating what we grow on our farms such as food, eggs, milk etc and not selling everything off; this is because most farmers have a tendency of selling all their produce and leaving almost nothing for the family’s consumption. A sick person can be denied milk because it is for sale!
The remaining 2 – 3 minutes will be foe narrations and station promos.
My 15 minute slot will be in that form.
On Gender and Nutrition
Women can be encouraged to participate in programs, we need to sensitize people especially the men on the importance of working together with their wives because most of them take their wives for granted, and they tender to think that they are more of farming tools or laborers on their farms instead of being their patterners. Men should be told and educated about ‘gender equality’ and its importance where both women and men enjoy the same status and have equal opportunity to realize their full human rights and potential to contribute to national, political, economic, social and cultural development and to benefit from the results.
There is need for farmers and other to know that they should educate their children especially the girls instead of keeping them at home to wait for men to marry them off to homes where they instead suffer from being treated as laborers because of the heavy dowry which the men pay for them. Girls should be taken through the education process. This will improve their understanding, their way of doing things in favor of their homes and communities at large.
The female farmers should be equipped fully, emotionally and financially because, not only are women good home managers, but also over the past years, women have proved to be good financial managers. If their husbands can trust them too, it will be some steps forward in their lives.
In Uganda, most financial institution managers are women and so are posts like Police Officers In Charge, OCs, of most police posts in the country. Women are optimists by nature and look above the mountains and even behind them!
So for, the environmental Reservation, they should be assisted to have other means for cooking other than firewood – biogas – for example made from animal waste and farm waste. Energy saving stoves should be availed at cheaper prices to serve on charcoal.

Thanks to all taking part, in Uganda there is a lot to learn ranging from towns to villages. in towns the prices for food tend to be high and the low income earners run for the fairly cheap foods month after the other thus being limited to one food staff and some food values which in turn leads to lack of some other food components in the diet and this has resulted into a number of deficiency diseases on the other side of the coin many people living in rural areas have got an advantage of farming a number of crops and they can easily meet the feeding requirements in a meal. Right from their gardens farmers can provide food staffs containing carbohydrate, proteins , vitamins mention it, in case of buying, people in rural areas of Uganda have a chance of accessing food at cheaper prices. at this , agriculture and nutrition move hand in hand. thanks am Kamya Ben.