Contribution of S&T Missing in Global Nutrition Report

November 16, 2015

By Pauline Okoth, SciDev Writer, via SciDev.Net

I witnessed the launch of the 2015 Global Nutrition Report last month (28 October) and after perusing it, I discovered that it has neglected the contribution of science and technology (S&T) in enhancing food and nutrition security.

This year’s report is the second in the annual series since 2014 and I am generally impressed with the progress made not only in the global nutrition outcomes, but also in the data collection process. The report was launched in Kampala, Uganda during the 6th Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS).

I found out that the report assesses the state of global nutrition by collecting data on five indicators – under-five stunting, wasting and overweight as well as anaemia in women of productive age and exclusive breastfeeding of infants below six months.

This year, the report has more detailed data on nutrition financing, a focus on additional actors contributing to enhanced nutrition and a proposal to track ten food system outcome indicators.

I realised, however, that there is a missing link between the general acknowledgement of the role of S&T in the call to action made to African leaders during the ADFNS and the glaring absence of relevant indicators to track S&T contributions in the 2015 Global Nutrition Report.

Surprisingly, none of the proposed food system indicators is directly related to S&T. The proposed indicators stem from five food system outcome areas – food affordability, consumption diversity, health and nutrition status, as well as environmental sustainability.

I discussed this issue with Manfred Zeller, a senior research fellow at US-headquartered HarvestPlus, who confirmed that the report did not track the contribution of S&T to food security and nutrition.

One of the contributors to the report, Elizabeth Kimani of Kenya-based African Population and Health Research Center, concurs that this absence of S&T’s role in the report is “a major gap”, which she attributes to lack of data.

Interesting, however, there is already some available data that can be used as a starting point. HarvestPlus, for instance, continuously maps countries that are growing or testing biofortified foods.

But biofortification is just one in many relevant technologies. Working with scientific associations worldwide and funding a scientific review panel to browse ongoing literature and funding for S&T, Manfred said, is a good way to set the ball rolling to capture the contribution of S&T to nutrition.

Despite this gap, I am aware that the report is work in progress that creates a window for improved reporting. Kimani told me that provisions can be made to include the contribution of S&T in the 2016 edition of the report.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa desk.