“Leading up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit, the pressure is on to ensure safe nutritious food is promoted. This presents an opportunity to put nutrition higher on the global agenda, which will help people thrive and ultimately save lives,” Ton Haverkort, GAIN Country Director of Ethiopia, tells Food Tank.
The Food Systems Summit plans to launch new actions to help achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and develop more sustainable and equitable food systems.
GAIN, which was launched in 2002, works to end malnutrition through the transformation of the food system in countries like Ethiopia, helping target the first objective of the summit.
An estimated 8 million people in Ethiopia require food assistance, with 3.9 million women and children nutritionally vulnerable. The country has made significant gains to reduce malnutrition, but Ethiopia is still facing food insecurity.
“Ethiopian children consume one of the least diverse diets in sub-Saharan Africa and, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), about 28 percent of all child mortality in the country is associated with undernutrition,” Haverkort tells Food Tank.
Over the last year, in response to COVID-19, GAIN created initiatives to protect the country’s nutritional standing. As part of one initiative, GAIN convened the Standing Together for Nutrition (STfN) collaboration to bring together 60 experts to assess COVID-19’s impact on nutrition. Recently, the consortium published research on double-duty interventions, programs, and policies that prevent or reduce the risk of nutritional deficiencies after COVID-19. In December, their research on COVID-19’s potential impacts on maternal and infant undernutrition also helped guide new policies.
Additionally, GAIN Ethiopia is leading a project studying the consequences of COVID-19 on food supply, safety, and pricing at two open markets. They plan to provide recommendations and help facilitate solutions once the study is complete.
GAIN’s other ongoing projects focus on initiatives to boost the nutritional quality of certain commonly used food products like salt, wheat, and oil, reduce post-harvest food loss, and increase sustainable food production and market accessibility.
Through collaborations with businesses, food suppliers, and the Ethiopian government, GAIN has created programs to help address these concerns and improve the nutritional status of people’s diets.
GAIN recognized that one of Ethiopia’s major problems was micronutrient deficiency in infants and pregnant women, particularly in iodine. Around 50 percent of women and children lacked adequate levels of iodine.
Through the the Large Scale Food Fortification (LSFF) Program, GAIN helped develop the fortification standards for salt iodization, wheat flour, and edible oil and create policies to mandate fortification to combat these deficiencies. They offer support to the government and private sector to understand and enforce the standards of fortification. GAIN also develops opportunities for small-scale millers to fortify wheat flour through the building of laboratories and recommendations for sustainable suppliers.
GAIN has seen fortification coverage increase. For salt iodization, adequately iodized salt from markets and households reached more than 88 percent in 2018, up from 26 percent in 2015.
To prevent the loss and waste of nutritious foods, GAIN also facilitated the creation of the Ethiopia Postharvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition (E-PLAN). Through an Ethiopian business engagement platform, local businesses are matched with industry experts to analyze their supply chains, packaging, crating, and processing. Together, they find ways to reduce food loss and waste.
Haverfort says the program has been particularly successful with tomatoes. GAIN distributed 19,000 reusable plastic crates to unions and trader associations. The crates eliminated overloading and increased aeration and stackability. Because they are much easier to handle as well, postharvest loss was reduced at all levels of the supply chain.
“We work with food suppliers to increase their capacity to produce and sell nutritious foods for children,” Haverkort explains. “We also promote sustainable market development with local processors and smallholder farmers in the dairy value chain, to enhance the nutritional value of high-quality milk-based products to fight malnutrition.”
Photo courtesy of Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash.