The African Nutrition and Epidemiology Conference (ANEC), held every two years, is Africa’s biggest gathering of nutritionists. This year, the conference took place in Addis Ababa, on 1-4 October and the theme was: “Multi-stakeholder nutrition actions in Africa: translating evidence into policies and programs for impact”. Bioversity International was widely represented with nine of its scientists attending and organizing panel discussions and presentations on mainstreaming agrobiodiversity in food systems to address the prevalence of monotonous, staple-heavy diets, lacking in important micronutrients, across the African continent.
Bioversity International also co-sponsored* a symposium entitled Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in African food Systems for Healthy and Sustainable Diets as a platform for discussion and gathering of evidence on traditional and indigenous agrobiodiversity, which could stimulate African food systems to improve nutrition.
More than 100 participants attended the symposium, where Victor Wasike – Bioversity’s Kenya coordinator of the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN) Project – delivered a keynote on the nutritional value of indigenous crops. In Kenya, a BFN initiative is improving the diet quality in schools by ensuring indigenous vegetables are included in students’ lunches, five days a week. During this meeting, a display of snacks featuring neglected and underutilized species such as puffed millet and sorghum flavored with baobab and mango powder demonstrated how such nutritious foods could be mainstreamed.
A panel discussion followed featuring Beatrice Ekesa from Bioversity International Uganda, among others, addressing malnutrition in Africa, looking at various studies on food composition of traditional and indigenous crops and discussing best practices for mainstreaming such nutrient-dense foods to improve health across Africa.
From Bioversity International Kenya, two researchers presented on three initiatives across various districts in Kenya:
Julia Boedecker talked about using a food calendar as a tool to raise awareness on the seasonal availability of nutritious local foods, which is being put to use in northern Kenya to improve dietary diversity. She also demonstrated that the agricultural activities and nutrition education aimed to increase dietary diversity in Vihiga County, Kenya, resulted in an improved dietary diversity score among women and children.