Will NSA help address the underlying causes of nutrition imbalance?
Nutrition is an integral part of agriculture. Increasing the production of staple foods to attain caloric self-sufficiency is one of the major goals of food security agendas. But it is insufficient for accomplishing every aspect of nutrition goals. With more than half of the global population’s nutrition in imbalance with hunger, deficiencies, obesity, and overweight, a diet primarily based on staple food is not conducive to the growth of a healthy population. Nevertheless, many people who work in agriculture do not consume enough food or maintain a healthy diet; even though 63% of low-income people in the globe work in agriculture, the vast majority of them on small farms, many are still in danger of food and nutrition insecurity.
In 2014, the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) was jointly organised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO). The conference threw light on new challenges and opportunities for improving nutrition. In the context of ICN2, Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture (NSA) was introduced. FAO defines NSA as a food-based approach to agricultural development that puts nutritionally rich foods, dietary diversity, and food fortification at the heart of overcoming malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. Therefore, it may seem counterintuitive to recommend that agriculture become more nutrition-sensitive, as it is the source of most of the food we consume.
Conventional farmers usually have to choose between what they sell and consume. Even though they raise cattle and grow nutritious crops, many sell most of their output, leaving next to nothing for household use. Others, who only produce one or a few crops, must buy most of their food from the market. Therefore, NSA focuses on implementing practices that provide year-round access to a variety of nutritious foods, either by ensuring producers have the resources to produce the necessary food for a balanced diet or by equipping marketplaces to offer a variety of healthy foods at reasonable costs. Additionally, it entails limiting food loss and waste by lowering food-borne pathogens through improved technology and appropriate hygiene standards throughout the value chain.
The primary objective of NSA and food systems is to ensure that acceptable, diversified, nutritious, and safe food always be accessible and affordable to meet the nutritional needs of people of all ages. NSA also means educating families about nutrition so they can produce, purchase, prepare and consume healthy foods. The main aim of agriculture in aiding NSA is the production, processing, storage, and marketing of nutritious foods.
The best example of using NSA is Nutri-gardens. Since the beginning of time, Nutri-gardens have been a cornerstone of traditional farming systems, but their significance has diminished. One of the advantageous and low-cost techniques to raise nutritional levels in consumers is Nutri-gardening. Nutri-garden ensures an inexpensive, regular and handy supply of fresh vegetables essential to nutrition. Hence, Nutri-gardens may be regarded as a simple but innovative option that bridges the gap between the available resources and their sustainable utilisation, addressing issues like malnutrition and creating additional revenue- generating opportunities for farmer communities.