Photo by GAIN www.gainhealth.org
Hunger, poverty and malnutrition are widespread in the developing world today, as developing countries are home to the vast majority of the world’s 870 million food insecure people. The number of people with vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies is even more daunting at approximately 2 billion people. In addition, approximately 165 million children under the age of five are stunted due to chronic undernutrition, with more than 90% of the world’s stunted children living in Africa and Asia. At the same time, an estimated 1.4 billion adults as well as more than 40 million children under the age of five are overweight in both the developed and developing world, and susceptible to a range of chronic diseases. This co-existence of undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overnutrition poses a formidable challenge.
Remarkable advances have been made in agriculture, yet some big questions and issues remain in the field of agricultural research which, if addressed, could contribute to improving the nutrition and health of the poor in developing countries. How can we better clarify the contribution and impact of agriculture? How can we show evidence of the impacts agricultural development has on nutrition and health?
There is now wide recognition that a renewed global focus on realigning agricultural policies, development strategies and interventions is needed to accelerate progress in improving and maximizing nutrition and health benefits. In tandem, we also need an appreciation of the importance of food systems as well as of the major players.
To rise to these challenges new science, new partnerships and modes of collaboration, and improved innovation systems will be needed. Productive partnerships that connect agricultural research in the CGIAR with external partners also have the potential to amplify the impact of public investment in agricultural research and development leading to improved nutrition and health outcomes.