By Dr. Catherine N. Kunyanga

Many at times, consumers do not think about what they are eating. In the African set-up, most diets tend to be driven by a myriad of factors namely; hunger, appetite, cultural and social meaning of food, habit or custom, emotional comfort, convenience and advertising, nutritional value, social interactions and accessibility. Advertising continues to play an important role in influencing consumption of foods. Nutrition information is rarely displayed on the labels of most food products; consumers therefore purchase and consume these foods regardless of their cost without being oblivious of the possibility of them being unwholesome or of lower nutritional and health quality than indicated.

The famous quote by Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine” still guides most of the underlying principles of nutrition. It is a proven fact that plant foods i.e. cereals, legumes and vegetables have helped to fulfill the ageless need to sustain body and soul. These foods play an important role in the traditional diets of many developing countries; they are low in fat, excellent sources of proteins, carbohydrates, dietary fibre and a variety of micronutrients.

Increased consumption of these foods has been widely promoted, not only do they supply macro and micronutrients but they also provide many bioactive phytochemicals which are strongly associated with health maintenance and prevention of chronic diseases.

Consumers, especially those from the middle and upper socio-economic classes have become increasingly aware of health benefits derived from consumption of health promoting specialized foods found in the market. There is also increasing willingness to pay for additional safety of food products, and increasing attention toward the overall safety of consumption patterns, given a more widespread knowledge of the relation between food consumption patterns and health status.

 

Is there a biblical perspective on what we eat?

My all favourite biblical quote “Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables or pulses to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, King’s meat, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 15…..At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.”Daniel 1:11-13 (NIV)

This proves that plant foods can help promote nutrition and health of many populations in Africa and globally with positive outcomes. Many consumers may find it strange to think about eating as a choice, but it is.

Choosing to live well is choosing to eat well. Whole foods and nutritionally adequate diets such as a variety of vegetables and fruits as part of a mainly plant-based diet can help one avoid four of the top ten leading causes of premature death which are: heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes.

A healthy diet can help one look better and feel younger. In addition to providing several nutrients for healthy balanced diets, plant based foods exert a health-protective effect attributed mainly to antioxidants and dietary fiber. These foods have potential as a remedy to counter food insecurity since most are well adapted to the local environment enabling them to resist pests, drought and diseases.

Health Benefits of Plant Foods

A plant-based diet with high intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains may reduce the risk of oxidative stress-related diseases. Consumption of a diversity of cereals, legumes, oil seeds and vegetable provides a combined additive or synergistic effect crucial to health benefits derived from the diet.

Most bioactive food constituents are derived from plants; those so derived are collectively called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are bioactive substances of plants that have been associated in the protection of human health against chronic degenerative diseases. The large majorities of these phytochemicals are redox active molecules and therefore defined as antioxidants.

Antioxidants can eliminate free radicals and other reactive oxygen and nitrogen species that contribute to most chronic diseases. It is hypothesized that antioxidants originating from foods may work as antioxidants in their own right in vivo, as well as bring about beneficial health effects through other mechanisms, including acting as inducers of mechanisms related to antioxidant defense, longevity, cell maintenance and DNA repair. Dietary diversification is the most important factor in ensuring intake of adequate micronutrients and phytochemicals.

What guides us to make informed choices?

Many efforts to eradicate hunger and poverty in Africa have focused on increasing agricultural productivity and diversity in the foods we eat. To maintain good nutrition and health, we need to eat a variety and diversity of foods.

Genesis 1:29

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food; and Genesis 9:3

“Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”

The search for novel high quality but cheap sources of protein and energy has continued to be a major concern in many parts of Africa. Investigations on economically viable indigenous food ingredients as alternative strategies to curb under nutrition and food insecurity are of utmost importance to broaden the essential nutrient sources for human nutrition. Adaptation to adverse environmental conditions, resistance to pests, cultural acceptability and sufficient nutritional qualities are the key advantages of these indigenous foods.

In addition, plants possess macronutrients, amino acids, lipids and minerals, which are natural components of many cereals, legumes, oil seeds, and vegetables and they play an important role in maintaining their quality and determining nutritive value in human diet.

Policy interventions and nutrition education should focus on linking agriculture to positive nutrition and health outcomes. Hence, in the efforts to address food and nutrition security it is pertinent to take into consideration the role of plant foods in diseases and health.

Climate smart agriculture should therefore, incorporate production of nutrition sensitive crops for positive nutrition and health outcomes among various populations in Africa.

Why worry about what you eat?

Globally, under nutrition and over nutrition are key concerns of many nutritionists. These two scenarios lead to risk of being underweight or overweight which can be measured. The risks of being overweight and physically inactive are numerous depending on individuals. The biblical perspective also cautions against overeating for instance “Proverbs 23:20-21: Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.

If you are overweight (BMI over 25) and physically inactive) you may develop: Cardiovascular (heart and blood circulation) disease; Gall bladder disease; High blood pressure (hypertension); Diabetes; Osteoarthritis; and Certain types of cancer, such as Colon and Breast Cancer. The short-term conditions related to poor diet include fatigue, bad moods, depression and stress.

If you are underweight (BMI less than 20), you may be malnourished and develop: Compromised immune function, Respiratory disease, Digestive disease; Cancer; Osteoporosis, and Increased risk of falls and fractures.

The choice is yours!

A plant based diet will contain macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and lipids), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as dietary fibre. Dietary fibre has been showed to have benefits that include combating constipation and improvement of controls in the body like your heart health as well as protection against cancer.

The most undisputed advantage of insoluble fibre is its ability to soften and expand stool volume, speeding up faecal transit and elimination. Soluble fibre from legumes, barley, oats, some fruit and vegetables can help regulate blood sugar swings and by lowering serum cholesterol, protect against heart disease.

Excess blood fats are possibly reduced by soluble fibres such as pectin, bean and oat gums, and the types in legumes (lentils, chickpeas, navy, pinto or kidney beans). Your heart health may improve by diets rich in fibre, through its cholesterol lowering effects. Fibres also have possible anti-cancer effects since in the bowel, bacteria converts fibre into short chain fatty acids, which provide energy for the body and may help protect against cancer.

Many at times we neglect our bodies by overeating and lack of exercise. Physical exercise is also important in nutrition and health. 1 Timothy 4:8 says that “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come”.

Let moderation in everything guide you to a healthy living. “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Philippians 4:5”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Course on Local economic development: towards agribusiness cluster development

Disclaimer:  The information and opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the ATPS Network.

Posted on 19th December, 2016by Mrs. Manon Lent

Short course with fellowship opportunity

23 October – 3 November 2017

Making markets work for local communities

The course is aimed at catalysing vibrant rural economies. It focuses on the changing roles of rural policies and services in sub-Saharan Africa. It introduces the participants to a set of five typical interventions that, on their own or in combination, are designed to boost local market demand, add value, smoothen rural trade and increase local economic activities generating income and employment. In this course each type of intervention will be illustrated with real-life cases that are presented by the ‘case owners’ themselves. This will assist to better appreciate the rigidity of reality. The course is highly interactive and builds on the participant’s own experiences and personal cases. These will serve as building blocks for ‘bankable’ project that will be developed during the course. The programme offers a balanced ‘diet’ including introductions to concepts, practices, participatory group work, guest lectures, case study presentations and excursions.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course you will:

  • have a good understanding of conceptual frameworks to identify development opportunities for rural communities and spin-offs for rural wealth creation;
  • be able to appreciate the linkages between poverty and livelihood strategies, the role of agribusiness development and effective services delivery, and the potential of rural markets, local trade and value chains to ‘work for the poor’;
  • be able to facilitate participatory approaches and methodologies for innovation and change processes;
  • be able to apply tools and instruments for strategic and effective interventions catalysing processes that boost rural economies.

Target audience

This regional course is designed for mid-career professionals of government departments, non-governmental and civil society organisations, business associations, development agencies, universities and colleges for higher education, and for other professionals working in the domain of market-driven local economic development. Proficiency in English is required.

 For more information and online application: http://www.wur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/short-courses/Short-courses-2017/CDIcourse_Led_2017.htm

More on fellowships: http://www.wur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/short-courses/scholarships.htm

How to apply: http://www.wur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/short-courses/how-to-apply.htm


Course on Organised farmers as partners in agribusiness

Disclaimer:  The information and opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the ATPS Network.

Posted on 19th December, 2016by Mrs. Manon Lent

Short course with fellowship opportunity

25 September – 6 October 2017

Improving farmers’ performance and business relations

This course perceives farmers as autonomous entrepreneurs and their organisations as farmers’ business organisations. Both operate in dynamic market systems and have to deal with a range of public and private sector players, such as sourcing companies, banks and MFI’s, agro-input dealers, research, extension and others. The central question of the course is how farmers can improve their income and well-being through effective collective action of their organisations and improved relations with other stakeholders.

Course programmeFor exploring how farmers can become partners in agribusiness, the course will discuss many complementary topics such as farmer entrepreneurship, governance of farmers’ organisations, economic services that these organisations can deliver to their members, stakeholder collaboration, policy environment, promoting farmer-inclusive value chain development. Much attention is given to the introduction and sharing of practical tools. The course is highly interactive and action-oriented. Participants have the opportunity to learn from the broad international experience of the trainers and from other course participants. They will relate course topics to their work situation and work on their ‘farmer business cases’.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course you will:

  • be familiar with state-of-the-art thinking about farmer entrepreneurship, famers’ organisations and inclusive value chain development;
  • perceive ‘problems’ as ‘opportunities to opprove’;
  • consider alternative intervention strategies to support farmers and their organisations;
  • be capable of using operational approaches and practical tools for facilitating collective action and market engagement of farmers’ organisations in your professional work context;

Target audience

This two-week course is aimed at professionals interested in the promotion of farmer-inclusive agribusiness. We welcome professionals from farmers’ organisations, governmental organisations, private sector, civil society organisations, universities, research and extension. Proficiency in English is required.

For more information and online application: http://www.wur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/short-courses/Short-courses-2017/CDIcourse_OPPO_2017.htm

More on fellowships: http://www.wur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/short-courses/scholarships.htm

How to apply: http://www.wur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/short-courses/how-to-apply.htm


Course on Climate change and food security nexus

Disclaimer:  The information and opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the ATPS Network.

Posted on 19th December, 2016by Mrs. Manon Lent

Short course with Fellowship opportunity

11 – 22 September 2017

Developing the capacity to facilitate change

Climate change adaptation and mitigation activities are part of complex change processes. These require the involvement of many stakeholders e.g., local communities, farmers, businesses, scientists, policymakers, extension workers,  media and civil society organisations. Climate change governance requires these stakeholders to change their practices and shift perceptions and accepted norms. Such change processes can only be successful if a learning oriented approach to climate change governance is adopted. It requires dedicated, motivated individuals and organisations that can promote and facilitate learning. This course encourages you to become a facilitator of change. You will not only get a full understanding of climate change, its impacts and adaptation and mitigation concepts but also strengthen your skills for stakeholder engagement, policy influencing, advocacy and negotiation to help you establish more effective governance structures. The training approach is interactive and hands-on. It includes practical fieldwork, case studies and individual action planning.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course you will:

  • have a better understanding of climate change and its impacts;
  • understand the challenges climate change governance faces and explore ways to strengthen it;
  • practice to become a more effective change manager by applying social learning techniques and tools;
  • be able to understand innovative practices for adaptation and mitigation;
  • be able to place climate change adaptation and mitigation in the context of sustainable development.

Target audience

The course is intended for mid-career professionals, dealing with climate change adaptation and mitigation options in developing countries, working for a research organisation, NGO, government or civil society. Participants need to have a relevant tertiary education with at least five years of experience in a course-related discipline like agriculture, water management, biodiversity, forestry, or other natural resources management. Proficiency in English is required.

For more information and online application: http://www.wur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/short-courses/Short-courses-2017/CDIcourse_climate_change_food_security_nexus_2017.htm

More on fellowships: http://www.wur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/short-courses/scholarships.htm

How to apply: http://www.wur.nl/en/Expertise-Services/Research-Institutes/centre-for-development-innovation/short-courses/how-to-apply.htm


THE REVAMPED ATPS WEBSITE GOES LIVE

Disclaimer:  The information and opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the ATPS Network.

Posted on 23rd June, 2010by Mr. Nelson Akenga

June 21, 2010; The ATPS website that has been under review is now online. The site, which boasts state of the art multi-media capabilities has a new and improved look with major sections easily accessible from the homepage. The aesthetically advanced interface contains a new login facility that allows registered members access to special restricted areas such as designated member sub-sites accessible to authorized cluster groups such as secretariat staff, National chapter coordinators, youth and women programme members and Board members. It also provides special privileges including posting and commenting on the blogs and updating of selected content material.

There is a blog section that provides room for cluster members to actively participate in discussions forums on various topics related to Science, technology and innovation (STI) and ongoing programme activities. The home page also features a series of visual icons that guide and link visitors directly to major ATPS programmes as well as ATPS social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and You-Tube. In addition the homepage also contains an events calendar and an‘In-Focus’ icon that highlights featured ongoing stories and events.

The new site is multi-lingual with French and English options that are active and an Arabic version that will be rolled-out soon. The new site has made it easier to develop and maintain mini sites for the 23 ATPS national chapters and serve as a means of effectively communicating chapter activities; with each chapter mini site, all the news, events and activities related to that chapter can now be uploaded to the site’s sub domain therefore providing visibility for the chapters. The same also applies for the program mini sites.

The new media centre has the capability of handling the latest interactive electronic media such as podcasts and videos. It is also capable of streaming uploaded videos, playing sound clips in form of podcasts and supporting flash animation. There is an elaborate photo gallery with a search and retrieval feature that contains neatly catalogued photos under designated categories.

The ATPS website has now become interactive with the improved membership registration module that provides for subscription to newsletters, as well as assigns registering members passwords which they can use to access the site. There is also a feedback form that will be used to collect the views of the site’s users and other relevant information that they would like to pass to the ATPS secretariat. The site also provides RSS subscription that will alert visitors who subscribe to them every time the site is updated, and also allows for sharing of information to their networks via the share facility icon.

Speaking during the unveiling of the site to ATPS board members at the Hilton Hotel, Nairobi on June 18, 2010, ATPS’s Executive Director, Dr Kevin Urama said, “The ATPS secretariat understands well that the organisation’s website is its window to the world and we must utilise it fully to tell Africa’s Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) story and by doing so achieve the organization’s communications and outreach goals.  With this new site we intend to deploy the wide range of new-media and multimedia technologies available to us to effectively reach out and interact with our key audiences, to tell success stories and to promote scaling-up of best practices globally.”

Presenting the new site to the Board, ATPS acting Senior Communications Officer, Marsden Momanyi said, “The main objective of the revamping exercise was to make it the ‘go-to’ site for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) in Africa and we believe that it will go a long way towards ensuring that ATPS achieves its goal of becoming the international centre of excellence in STI systems research, training, capacity building, communication, sensitization, knowledge brokerage, policy advocacy and outreach in Africa.”