PATRICK STOVER: I'd like to welcome all of you, or extend my welcome to all of you, to this celebration of the publication of this volume called The Africa Food System and its Interaction with Human Health and Nutrition. About five years ago, Per came to me and said, if I were to manipulate a food system and wanted to know what the impact of that is on human health-- did I improve it, did I make it worse-- what would I measure? And after thinking about this for 20 seconds and getting a headache, I changed the subject.
But now, about five years later, if you fast forward ahead, last month in Rome at the meeting of the World Committee for Food Security-- it was held in FAO-- all of the member states of the UN, as well as all the UN agencies, fundamentally agreed that we have to stop using endpoints like calories or hunger or food security to scale and design food and agricultural systems because we know that this practice now has led to both malnutrition in human populations, malnutrition-related chronic diseases, and also in the double burden of malnutrition, that is, where you have obesity and malnutrition in the same populations. And it was generally recognized by that group in a non-binding resolution that we really have to harmonize agriculture, food systems, and human health. And, of course, this hasn't been done seriously in any context.
But this book here that we're celebrating today is really the first to seriously address what the research gaps are and what the policy gaps are that are really prohibiting us from designing and scaling food systems to support human health. And I congratulate Per for this effort.
There are many people to thank. First and foremost, I'd like to thank Per Pinstrup-Andersen. It's both his vision and dedication to this project that really laid the foundation for not only the symposium that was held both the New York City and here at Cornell, but for the final product, this book. I'd also like to thank all of the authors of this volume, many of whom have a Cornell connection. And finally, would like to thank the United Nations Universities who were full partners in this project, especially Jean-Marc Coicaud in the New York office and [? Jin-Sen ?] in the New York office, who were critical also both to the design and some of the speaker selection associated with this project.
So I think all of you. And I turn this over to the Per Pinstrup-Andersen.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Thank you very much, Patrick. And thank you for the support that you've given to this effort, both as director of the division and as director of the United Nations Universities Food and Nutrition Program.
So this book is about the African food system and human health. And let me give you the overall conclusion of this book so you don't have to sit in suspense for the next 30 minutes or so. The overall conclusion is that if Sub-Saharan Africa is to solve its food security, nutrition, and health problems in a way that is compatible with sustainable management of natural resources, if Sub-Saharan Africa is to do this, they have to pay a lot more attention to the interactions among the various sectors-- the health sector, the nutrition sector if there is such a sector, the food and agriculture sector, and certainly environment and natural resources.
Now that ought to be obvious because problems are multi-disciplinary. And why do we think that solutions are uni-disciplinary? Yet we assume they are because we organize ourselves in silos with watertight compartments, behind firewalls, whatever words you want to use. And that's in research. And that's in policy making.
Governments are organized around ministries. The minister of agriculture is not too worried about health. The minister of health is not too worried about agriculture. Nutrition is floating around somewhere among ministries not entirely clear where its home is. If governments want to solve the problems I'm talking about, they have to come together in a cohesive, multidisciplinary approach to solving these problems. That's what the book is telling us.
I appreciate Patrick's words about my contribution, but this is a book written by a large number of experts, some of whom are with us here today. So this is a true team effort. In fact, it's a multi-disciplinary team reflecting what is needed out there in research and in policy making.
And let me just mention some of the disciplines represented among the authors of this book. The authors come from medical sciences, nutrition, agricultural sciences, economics, demography, and food science. Can you imagine if we could get a Sub-Saharan African government to organize themselves in that way? Yes, I agree. It's easier to get together to write a book than to get together and solve Africa's health and agriculture and food problems. But nevertheless that's the kind of thing that we need more of.
Let me say just a couple of words about what's in this book beyond the conclusion I already gave you. And then at the end, before we have the Q&A, I will say a few other things about some of the key findings that won't be mentioned by my colleagues here today because obviously we don't have all the authors here today. We only have the authors we could catch, who were in some way close to or at Cornell and who would not be traveling. But I'll introduce them later.
So the book has 14 chapters. And it covers the following subjects. The health and nutrition situation in Africa, to kind of set the stage. What are, really, the problems as they relate to health and nutrition? Second, animals as a source of human diseases, enzoonotic diseases, if you like. The AIDS epidemic and interaction with the food system. And I'll come back again and talk about some of the key findings of these things later on.
Pest management and health risks in African agriculture. And we're fortunate to have the author of that chapter with us today. Ecological health and human health. What are the interactions between environment and human health? Again, we fortunate to have the author of that chapter with us today.
Food safety issues. The current dean, Kathryn Boor was a co-author of that chapter. And she was going to come, but something came up. So she was unable to be with us today.
Population dynamics, a very important issue within these interactions we're talking about. The impact of health on productivity and income. What are the economic benefits of improving health either through the food system or otherwise? We have a chapter on that. Unfortunately, the author could not be with us today.
Poverty and health traps in Africa and how these traps link health, poverty, and agriculture. And, again, we're fortunate to have the author of that chapter with us today.
We have a chapter on gender issues and the role of women both in the food systems, in the health system and nutrition, and, most importantly, the interaction. What are some of the gender-specific issues that governments and researchers have to worry about in this interaction?
And we have a chapter on the links of all of this to the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals, of course, consist of eight silos. They do not try to cut across these various things, which is one of the criticisms.
So we have a panel, as I mentioned, of those authors who are based at Cornell or who have recently been based at Cornell and who were available. Rebecca Nelson is a nutritionist. [INAUDIBLE] should be a nutritionist, but she's actually a professor of plant pathology. She's a professor of plant breeding. And she's a professor of international agriculture. And you're probably a nutritionist as well, although I misspoke. So she will speak as soon as I stop.
Anna Herforth is a nutritionist. She left Cornell recently, and she's now with the World Bank. In fact, she's on maternity leave in, believe, Courtland or close there. And that's why we could get her to come.
And Chris Barrett is a professor of applied economics and also a professor of international agriculture. And Chris, good to have you here as well.
So without taking anymore of anybody's time, let me ask Rebecca to just hit on some of the highlights from your work in this book and anything else you want to share with us. And you want to come up here and do it?
REBECCA NELSON: Thank you, Per. The editor was kind enough to ask me to write a chapter about how pests and pest management interact with livelihoods and health. And it was my great pleasure to do that because, as a plant pathologist, of course, oriented towards challenges to African food security, that's of fundamental interest.
And then I have another job, another hat, where I'm a grantmaker. And in that work, my orientation is trying to understand how agricological intensification, particularly African and other food systems, can have benefits for productivity, livelihoods, and nutrition. So it's very central to my interest. And it was an honor to be asked to make that contribution. Thank you.
So pests influence health and livelihoods through multiple pathways, first, I suppose, through their-- I mean, basically through their effects on yields. The impacts of various types of pests on African crop yields are rather staggering. The few sources that dare to comment on this estimate losses, depending on region, between about 40% and 60% overall.
And here we're talking of various tax of pests. On the large end, you've got your elephants, comes down to your rats or rodents. Then you have various weeds who are pretty big, down to parasitic weeds. You have various microbiological tax fungi, viruses, nematodes, bacteria.
So with all this diversity of pests and all the different diversity of crops, those estimates still seem sort of exaggerated. But when I dug into a bit and looked at different experimental studies and farmer estimates and different crops and places, it appeared that those wildly high estimates were pretty much borne out by my triangulation of sources. So I think the losses are really quite amazing. And in eastern and southern Africa, maize losses are estimated around 55% and ground nut 60%. And that's an area where maize and ground nut are the basic basis of the diet.
So you have yields, which, when they're lost, that reduces the source of directly food, insofar as people are producing for themselves, and, of course, income which affects their ability to purchase other foods and also purchase health care.
In some circumstances, you have some intensification that's more commercially oriented. Sometimes in those systems, when you have a crop going for a commercial sale, that then becomes the subject of pesticide-oriented management. That's not the dominant reality of African pest management, but in some systems, you fall into this pesticide boom and bust cycle. So intensive vegetable production is one. You can get very toxic food situations, particularly for the people who are working the fields, but also potentially for the consumers. So that's one whole line.
Then you have sometimes in more deprived circumstances, more degraded conditions, you have problems of [INAUDIBLE] parasitic weeds. You have my own pet issue of molds that grow on crops before and after harvest that produce microtoxins. So there you get into a food safety issue which pervades a food system, particularly in that maize and ground nut, corn and peanut-based system. Under drought stress, you have tremendous risk before harvest. In the unlikely event that you have a good harvest, or the periodic event that you have a good harvest, you might not be able to store it adequately. And you get these really bad outbreaks.
This year in Kenya, for example, 200,000 tons of maize in eastern Kenya were declared unfit for human consumption. And I don't think that killed that many people directly through the microtoxin. But I read-- there's a Reuters report that 2,000 people committed suicide after their livelihood was removed. So that one way or another that was a negative health impact.
Anyway, the different syndromes vary by that the circumstances. And, of course, the circumstances are hugely variable in Africa. So it's hard to generalize.
Anyway, so basically, I guess, the overall vision that we're looking at here is sometimes in those intensive systems, integrated pest management, but overall, sometimes integrated crop and system management is much more called for, and trying to just get a more balanced system that's less pest prone.
Anyway, I've probably gone on way too long. Thank you very much. I guess there's a bit more in the chapter, but thanks a lot for coming to help us celebrate.
ANNA HERFORTH: Thank you very much, Per. And Per just mentioned, I was recently at Cornell. I finished my PhD this May with Per as my adviser and then went to work at the World Bank. And basically, my chapter addresses a lot of the issues that I'm dealing with every day in my work in DC where there are a lot of development institutions there that have placed a really high priority just now within the last months and years on integrating agriculture and food security and nutrition issues.
And what I'm basically talking about in my chapter is that food security in Sub-Saharan Africa won't be solved by focusing on the same old paradigm of food security as has been in the past. And it won't be solved by just focusing on increasing staple crop production and maybe incomes, and leaving nutrition and the environment to separate, even if they're concurrent, programs.
And this was also informed by my thesis work with Per in Kenya and Tanzania where I was convinced by the smallholder farmers that I talked to there that food security for those households would really improve if the food system didn't provide just more food, but it provided more consistent access to nutritious diets and also resources to help improve or maintain the natural resource base that smallholder farmers depend on to produce the food that they consume and sell.
But indulge me for a just a minute, and I'll say the definition of food security that I'm working with. And this is the definition that the UN agencies in 182 countries agreed to almost 15 years ago at the World Food Summit. And it states that food security exists when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy and active life.
So what is clear in that definition is that food security rests on nutritious diets. Otherwise, a healthy and active life becomes impossible. And it's also very clear from the definition that it rests on food. So you can't have food security by just having a maize- or rice-based diet and also getting vitamin supplements. Even though it might need short-term nutritional needs, it does not provide food security. So what food security is, more or less, is consistent access to a diverse diet.
And also there's a sub-point to this definition which isn't talked about quite as much. But 182 countries still agreed to this point in its entirety, which is that food security rests on sustainable production, that is, without degrading natural resources. And it quotes that these are essential to adequate and reliable food supplies. So this is really particularly important in a continent where almost 2/3 of people earn their livelihoods from agriculture, and they depend directly on soil quality, water quality, and also somewhat of a reliable climate to grow crops and raise animals.
So food security, everybody seems to agree here, is consistent access to a diverse diet, and it needs to be produced sustainably. But the problem is that that's not often how it's thought of in practice. And, in fact, when you hear the quotes of statistics for the number of people hungry or food insecure, what that is is based on a measurement of per capita availability of calories.
So when you frame the problem as a problem of inadequate calories, then your solution to food insecurity is, obviously, to increase the number of calories that are available. And a very good way to do that is to increase staple crop production, which provides a lot of calories. But just doing that is going to be an incomplete solution to food security as it's actually defined in its entirety.
So also another point besides that it won't solve food insecurity is that obesity is really growing quickly, even in Sub-Saharan Africa. And just focusing on increasing cheap calories will not really help the obesity problem either. So both ends of the nutrition spectrum.
And what I talk about in the chapter is that I think a good way to actually address the problem of food insecurity is through agricultural diversity. And this can be very helpful at both the food system level and the household level. So at the food system level, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the components that make up a diverse diet are actually not available in sufficient quantities. Only about half of the amount of fruits and vegetables that would be required per person per day based on the needs for adequate nutrition and disease prevention defined by the WHO, only half the amount of fruits and vegetables are actually available per capita. For legumes, it's only about a quarter of the amount that would need protein requirements in combination with starches. And animal-source foods are also not widely available per capita.
When you look at starches, actually there is enough produced in Sub-Saharan Africa per capita. Of course, that assumes perfect distribution, which doesn't happen. But when you look at the balance of the kinds of foods available, then you can see what happens to relative prices and that it doesn't necessarily help to alleviate the very monotonous starch-based diets that you find in a lot of households.
Then, second of all, at the household level, my thesis research actually showed that households in Kenya and Tanzania, which produced a greater diversity of crops, ended up consuming a greater diversity of foods in their diet. And this was largely due to household level consumption rather than an income effect of selling those foods.
And you can see easily why that happens when you just go and talk to some farmers, when they explain that there are a lot of barriers to actually, depending on the market, for a diverse diet that have to do with distance to the market and women's time use as well as a lot of perishability with more perishable foods. And so growing them would allow them to consume them regularly. It also allowed for practices that would improve soil fertility, pest resistance, water use, and also create more resilience in the face of climate change and unpredictable weather.
So diversity was very helpful at the household level. But we can't just encourage subsistence-type home gardens. Actually, we need to have programs and policies that will assure that diversity in production is actually profitable for farmers so that they will continue to do it.
So in the chapter, I list of number of ideas for programs and policies, and also indicators which would help to steer the food security agenda in a direction that's more consistent with the complete idea of what food security is. But I'm out of time here, so I will leave you to read that in the book. Thanks.
CHRIS BARRETT: It's always a great pleasure to get work with Per anything. And this project is no exception. So I really want to start by both commending and thanking Per for the considerable effort he put into the conferences and the book and into improving all of the contents of the book, I should add. All of us who were individual chapter authors know that Per put a lot of effort into shaping what you see there. So thank you very much, Per.
I opened this chapter by observing an important juxtaposition that at once over the last generation, we've seen greater progress in human living conditions at the bottom of the distribution than ever before in recorded history. So in the last 25 years, we've gone from better than 40% of the world's population living on the equivalent of $1 a day, adjusted for inflation per person, to now less than 20%. That's a truly remarkable accomplishment, to more than halve the population living in extreme poverty in merely 25 years.
At the same time, we've seen absolutely no progress in Sub-Saharan Africa in the same statistic. So we've been consistently at or a little bit above 40% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa living on the equivalent of $1 a day or less.
So this juxtaposition raises two questions. One, what is it that lets us achieve this phenomenal progress in human living conditions at the wrong end of the welfare distribution? And secondly, what is it that has kept Africa stuck in a place where it's not enjoying that progress? And that's really the crux of the chapter that I contribute to this volume, is trying to understand the drivers behind poverty traps and the interrelationship between poverty traps and health and hunger, and then the role the food system plays in enabling the release of people, the escape from the poverty and hunger trap that seems to ensnare so much of Africa.
The feedback between poverty and hunger and ill health is fairly intuitive. Low incomes lead to low intake of nutrients and poor quality of nutrients, excessive exposure to pathogens, higher risk of injury, greater probability of taking on high-risk employment, any of a variety of things that lead to ill health and hunger. And conversely, poor nutritional status and ill health impedes people's work capacity, impedes children's ability to go to school and acquire adjudication, and so leads to this vicious cycle of anything that shocks the system-- whether it's a health shock or an income shock-- can quickly precipitate a decline into a very low standard of living that's self-reinforcing. That's what we call a poverty trap in my line of work, in economics.
So the chapter goes on to elaborate on all of that. But the key two parts of the chapter I think are, one, in trying to draw the linkage to the food system, why improvements in the food system are so central to helping to mount an escape from poverty and ill health traps in Sub-Saharan Africa. And one can think of this in, coarsely speaking, two ways.
One is that the food system is the primary source of the incomes of the poorest populations of Africa. It's increasingly true that the poor live in urban areas, but still a large majority of the poorest in Africa live in rural areas and depend directly on agriculture, whether they're farmers or they're farm workers or they're employed in post-harvest activities, for instance, as itinerant collectors and traders so that they depend upon the food system for their incomes. And as the productivity of the food system, the reliability of the food system, the returns to the food system in rural areas increase, so do their incomes increase and their standards of living improve. They become better able to break out of health and hunger traps.
But equally, the poor depend disproportionally on the food system because they spend most of their income on food. It's important to keep in mind that even farmers in Africa, a majority of farmers, are net buyers of food products, meaning that they have such low productivity and such little in the way of productive assets that they commonly produce less than their households consume. And they have to spend part of their time working or depending upon handouts in order to fulfill the consumption requirements of the household.
So the dependence of the poor on the food system that brings them the food they eat-- not just the food system as a source of revenue, but as the primary place they expend their income-- is equally important to think about. Indeed, part of the lesson of the Green Revolution was the most of the gains of technological improvements accrued to the consumers, not the producers so that the poor in their role as people who spend a large share of their income on food benefit heavily from improvements and productivity in the system.
So I try to close the chapter with a passage that provocatively advances four principles I submit one can derive from the literature, especially empirical literature, on what are we learning about how best to ignite enhancements, improvements in the food system that benefit the poor directly. And the first thing to keep in mind is that these are broad principles. And one has to contextualize them for any given place.
But the first principle is the absolute essential nature of building and protecting the assets of the poor, that it's very hard for people to make progress if they don't control something of value that they can put to use in generating income for themselves. The second is the need to improve the productivity of the assets they already hold. And this is the crucial role of those who develop improve technologies, whether it's in the agricultural sciences or in engineering for people who are relying on unemployment. The labor productivity is economically the ultimate driver of incomes. And so improving the productivity of the labor people own, and if they own more than that-- if they own livestock and land-- improving the productivity of their livestock and land is essential.
Third is improving risk management options. Risk is one of the essential things that induces people to choose very low productivity strategies as a precautionary device to guard against catastrophic events. And one of the things we know about natural disasters, for example, is that more than 90% of the casualties and more than 80% of the material losses to natural disasters occur in poor communities and poor countries. They're disproportionately exposed to risk. Therefore they're unusually needy of better risk management options.
And finally, the last principle is that we need to actively facilitate favorable transitions out of agriculture, which may seem completely contrary to arguing that improving the food system is essential to helping people to escape from poverty and ill health traps. But one of the crucial things to keep in mind is that the natural resource base is intrinsically limiting on agriculture. And as long as human population and as long as human consumption grows, we can't continue to have everybody on the land.
So the trick is, what's the transition out? And it's the favorable transitions out, that farm kids can get educated and get decent jobs and not keep subdividing the land and mining the soils, is crucial to an improved food system that can help people escape from poverty and ill health traps.
So thank you. And thank you again, Per, for putting this whole thing together.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Thank you very much for bringing out in such a short time some of the key messages, some of the highlights from the three chapters. Let me just share with you in a few minutes some other highlights from the chapters that we could not get the authors of to come here today.
When we looked at the nutrition situation in Sub-Saharan Africa-- and Derrill Watson and I wrote that chapter. Derrill, unfortunately, is out ill today, so he couldn't be here. One of the interesting findings was that if you take the People's Republic of Congo out of the Sub-Saharan Africa averages for poverty and hunger and malnutrition, you find that Sub-Saharan Africa is not doing too badly because Congo is so big and doing so badly that when Congo is part of the sub-regional averages, it looks like the sub-region is doing very poorly. In fact, most of the African countries have roughly the same number of hungry people today that they had 20 years ago.
Now you could argue, well, these statistics are not very good. They're just repeating the number year after year. Sure, that's one way to interpret it. I would rather interpret it to mean that they have actually managed to avoid an increase in the number of hungry people. This is outside of Congo and a couple of other countries.
So they're not going to achieve the Millennium Development Goal except for a few countries that have very high population growth rates. They will be able to reduce by half the percent of the population that is hungry. That was not the intent. The intent of the Millennium Development Goal was not to push population growth. But sometimes the statistics will give you strange research.
Another very interesting finding from a different chapter is that more than half of the human illnesses that we are faced with today originated in the food system, more specifically, in animal agriculture, the enzootic diseases, more than half of them. So it really matters how we interact, how humans and animals interact. And we only have to think in terms of avian flu and mad cow disease. There is a whole string of these illnesses that we all very familiar with. But it was interesting to see that it was more than half, which certainly was a surprise to me.
The chapter on AIDS, extremely powerful chapter, which shows the very close link between HIV/AIDS and worker productivity, and therefore the productivity of the food system in those communities where HIV/AIDS is present.
Yet these interactions are not taken into account in agriculture research. When we set priorities for agriculture research, we assume there is an unlimited number of workers available in Sub-Saharan Africa. So we want new crop varieties, a new technology that will use more labor. And that, of course, is the case in many locations. But there are many other locations where lack of labor, simply because the workers sick or they died from HIV, HTB, and other illnesses. In those communities, we need technology that is not labor intensive. So we need a dual approach if we are interested in prioritizing agricultural research for the sake of improved health and nutrition.
The food safety chapter raises some very interesting questions about the trade-off between food safety and the price of food. How high standards do we want for food safety if pushing that standard up further is going to increase the price of the food that poor people, or for that matter, non-poor have to pay? And as Chris pointed out, a very large share of the household budget of poor people goes for food.
So if we keep pushing up the food safety standards that we want, we are also pushing up food prices. Well, this is not to say that poor people should eat dirty food. Of course not. The question is, what is a, quote, "reasonable" level of food safety that would still make food available at reasonable prices?
Laura Cramer and Speciosa Wandira told us that not only should women be informed and educated in Sub-Saharan Africa, but men should as well, that this is very gender-specific what needs to be done, but it is not specific to women. And there's a very interesting chapter. And if any of you know Speciosa, you know that she doesn't mince words. She says it the way it is. And Laura was coming around a little bit. But the chapter really puts it very straight as to what needs to be done in that area.
The food and health challenges have to be dealt with simultaneously. I started out by talking about that. This is very, very clear. And remember that these chapters are written by single-discipline experts. And they have come together to tell us that we need a multi-disciplinary, cohesive approach. And we need institutional changes. And that's the last point I want to raise. I could raise many more from this book. We need institutional changes, both in research and in government policy.
And the problem is that the incentives are not there. If I want to get tenure at Cornell University, I'm going to focus on single discipline, my discipline. I'm going to get as much as possible published in the top journal, which is most likely to be a single-discipline journal. Nothing wrong with that. But if that's all we do, we keep our silo mentality. And I haven't talked about the breakdown of the firewalls among the ministries in this context, both with respect to research, but primarily with respect to policy. So the institutional change is extremely important. And the incentives are simply not there as far as we can see.
With that, let's take a few minutes for Q&A. We got a mic. We've got somebody that's willing to bring you a mic whenever you raise your hand. And we'll just take a few Q&A, questions and answers-- and then we'll go to the reception.
So please, who wants to start? I can see [? Sarah ?] is ready with a mic down there. You already have a mic? We have actually have two mics. We're operating in stereo today. Go ahead.
SPEAKER 1: So thank you for your presentation. I just had a quick question. Your book focuses on the African food policy. What is different about the agricultural systems in Africa that would lead to looking at the quote, unquote, "African food systems"? Thank you.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: That's a wonderful question for Chris.
CHRIS BARRETT: Well, my answer to that question would be the observation that I made at the outset of my remarks, that we've seen phenomenal progress in human living conditions in most of the world, especially in East and Southeast Asia. But Africa is an unusually stubbornly persistent place in that we've not seen the same sort of progress. And so it opens the question of why. What's different about Africa?
We observe Africa's pattern is different. And so I think we've all spent our time trying to understand the particulars of that, perhaps, unusual case, although rather a large-scale case.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Rebecca?
REBECCA NELSON: I'd like to weigh in on that one. OK, I'll shout.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: It's supposed to work. Yes.
REBECCA NELSON: If thinking of pest management, it is a special case because it's so diverse. So for me, it's been a really different subject to study than Southeast Asian pest management, for example, where you have this dominant cropping system of irrigated rice. And you can sit there-- and Los Banos Ban in the Philippines, one research station, and breed rice that's very effective, can contend with the pests of rice in Southeast Asia pretty well. You can't get away with that in the African context. The crops, and the systems, and everything is so diverse.
And so you could have integrated pest management of a pest on rice in Asia, and it's a credible thing to do. Whereas the farmer's world does not turn around one pest of one crop in Africa. The whole concept doesn't even hold water. So it's not even a helpful notion, really. Integrated pest management, where everything's around one thing, it's just not that simple. So it's a really different proposition.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: And I think the general adding to what my colleagues have said, is that we need to understand that the problems are context-specific. And therefore, we have to understand the context before we start talking about solutions. And the context, as Rebecca pointed out, the context varies a lot.
On the other hand, I think some of the more general conclusions, including some of those I brought up here, are valid throughout, including in the United States and in Europe. So some of the general questions I think are very valid across regions. Others, more specific ones, are not.
Other questions or comments?
SPEAKER 2: Hi. I'm curious if you're able to touch on the issue of water and access to sufficient and clean water and its necessity for ag production, food safety, and human health.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: This is one of my regrets. I'll answer that because it's one of my regrets. We actually had an author lined up for a chapter on water, and I'm even mentioning it in the forward, because I was very unhappy. The person kept dragging us out saying, yes, I'm going to do it until it was too late to get somebody else.
Yes, that is a major weakness of this book that we don't have a chapter on water. You're absolutely correct. The next book we write will have a chapter on water.
SPEAKER 3: Hi. Well, agriculture is not exactly my forte. But you mentioned in terms of food security that in order to increase nutrition, we need to diversify agriculture in these regions. How exactly do you practically do that, I guess?
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: I think that's for you, Anna.
ANNA HERFORTH: Well, I think that, in a lot of ways, the policies and programs that have been in place for Sub-Saharan Africa, and that we could even say the same for the United States, have pushed production a way that makes diversity in production more difficult. And my suggestion is that we need to reverse that and make sure that when a new kind of crop is promoted, that it's not just grow this and sell it to buy everything else you need, that there's a mindset among extension agents and higher-level policymakers to try to encourage productivity in a way that will allow small farmers to keep growing a diversity of crops so that it's profitable for them, so that it's not destroyed by pests because we haven't put enough research into minor crops as opposed to major staple and commodity crops, and basically just change the mindset and the extension. I think that's the basic answer.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Rebecca?
REBECCA NELSON: Oh, I just want to add to that by saying I worked for several years on big carbohydrate crops. And I felt like I was part of a research system that was really biased in that direction-- rice and potatoes and corn now. And I feel I was really moved and influenced by Anna's chapter.
And as a grantmaker, I feel like I'm more aggressively going that direction, trying to provide the research support for minor crops that help people diversify their system. So look at the functions that are needed in the agro-eco system and contemplating nutritional functions, but also agricological functions of how pests can-- how you can reduce pest pressure, how you can improve soil fertility. And then put some research muscle, some funding behind crops like amaranth and different leguminous crops and different crops that can help improve ecosystem and nutritional function. So I'm trying to influence other grantmakers in order to take that sort of eco-nutrition angle and eco-intensification angle more seriously in grantmaking and support. And that would then empower those extension agents to have something to talk about when they go.
ANNA HERFORTH: Oh, and one other point to add to that, too, is that it's not just on the production side, either. It also involves increasing demand for kinds of crops that may have been either implicitly or explicitly-- people have been told that they're not good foods to eat, such as amaranth, which has been a traditional food in a lot of parts, at least in East Africa where I did my work. And it's been a low-status food, but very, very nutritious. So also efforts to increase on the demand side so that farmers can grow them and be assured that they'll be able to sell them.
CHRIS BARRETT: If I may chime in, the last part of this relates to Cynthia's question about the missing water chapter. I mean, keep in mind only 6% of African cultivated area is irrigated. And water is heavily limiting, especially on fruits and vegetables.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Is that supposed to make me feel better or worse?
CHRIS BARRETT: [INAUDIBLE]
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: You need a microphone, [? Mel, ?] for the video.
SPEAKER 4: To what extent is Africa's problems really the problems that are foisted on it by policies in Europe and in the United States? I mean, does Africa really have the independence or the ability to be able to influence this without all these other external influences that are coming onto the agriculture in that part of the world?
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: I'm so glad I have a panel I can pass the questions unto. Who wants to address that? Is it out fault or theirs?
CHRIS BARRETT: Let me turn that around. The question is who's going to solve the problem. And I think it's highly unrealistic to think the outsiders are going to solve the problem. So the trick becomes who's really going to take ownership for resolving this and which governments are going to invest in building up the technical capacity and creating the incentives for communities and for private sector actors to do the things that many of these chapters identify as needing to be done in order to improve the productivity of the food system so as to improve the health of Africans. Some of the problems are without question originating outside of the continent of Africa. But the solutions are going to have to come from within Africa.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: I want to second that. I think we have to be real careful we don't let the African governments off the hook. It's their countries. They figure it out. And we can help. But we can't do the job for them irrespective of the history, it seems to me. Do any other panel members want to address that question? No? OK. Let's go on to the next question or comment right there. Where's the mic? Right there. Good.
SPEAKER 5: I appreciate your comment about needing a more diverse diet and growing a more diverse cropping system. It seems to me, though, the problem is that many of these diversity foods, like fruits and vegetables, are very perishable. And therefore, even if they are grown, it's probably going to be a more seasonal basis as opposed to the cereals and other staple crops. So it seems to me what is really needed is some more work on food preservation, food processing. I know this is very difficult in poor areas, but have you thought about this? And do you have any suggestions for what kind of food processing might be appropriate for some of the crops that you're talking about?
ANNA HERFORTH: I totally agree. And I think that probably you have a lot more ideas than I do being in food science. But just from my own experience working with the farmers in Kenya and Tanzania, I know there's a huge demand on their part for just simple dryers that they could use to dry leafy vegetables so that they could then sell them almost like a soup mix that people could purchase in the cities because perishability was a very limiting factor in terms of how far that they could get to larger markets where they could sell those for better prices and how long would somebody have to sit out in a small market all day and see their crops wilting and then get lower prices at the end of the day. So they definitely were very interested in food preservation. And the one that I'm most familiar with is drying, but there may be a lot of others that could be really useful.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Thank you. Yes?
SPEAKER 6: In response to what you just said about drying, that just made me think about, what have they done just as far as drying things naturally? Is that not efficient enough, like in the sun? So basically my question is like, what are they doing as far as drying already?
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Sun drying and similar kinds of things.
ANNA HERFORTH: Yeah, low-input technologies would be the most useful for a lot of these farmers. So in terms of drying with the sun, that's a viable solution. The problem with the way that they can do this without any inputs of technology at all is that there are some food safety problems if they're dried on the ground, which they often are. And then also you lose some of the nutritional content by sun drying. So faster dryers that don't depend on just sitting in direct sun would also be useful.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: OK. Yes, go ahead.
SPEAKER 7: I was struck by the four propositions or principles the Chris enunciated it at the end, which, without taking anything away from you or your chapter, it sounds like received wisdom that we've had for a couple of decades. Not being an economist, I've heard Per enunciate those principles and others over the years.
CHRIS BARRETT: We're slow learners.
SPEAKER 7: And it makes-- sorry?
CHRIS BARRETT: We're slow learners.
SPEAKER 7: No, no, no. That's not my point. It makes me wonder-- first of all, it strikes me that even if those four principles were honored, were conveyed, were heard, were understood, and were implemented, we could go a long way in addressing some of the poverty traps and related issues you talked about. But then it raises a larger question for me. If all of the recommendations from the chapters were put together, we could have similar grounding principles. And yet, we know that international agencies, external partners are giving mixed messages still to this day to government policy makers-- not just international organizations, researchers in their own silos as Per has pointed out and so on.
Is there any effort that any of you are aware of to gather together the relevant external partners and develop consensus principles and some common messages that, of course, need to be contextualized in each country, but at least starting from a common baseline and bringing that to government policymakers? Are any of you aware of any such effort?
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Are you stumped?
CHRIS BARRETT: Absolutely. Keep in mind that within just the United States, the Feed the Future initiative that is President Obama's new effort at this, has been a real struggle for a year and a half to just come up with what are pretty watered down principles agreed by just the participating US agencies. And it certainly doesn't have buy-in from other donors. It's a really big challenge. It's akin to the problem of silos across disciplines or across ministries. There's equally a silo of donor nationalism or institutional individual scale ownership, that you want your own principles to be advanced and you're not terribly willing to compromise and merge them with others. It's a very serious obstacle we face. I completely agree with you.
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Let's take one or two more questions, and then we'll adjourn to the other room. Are there any more? Yes. Do we have a mic?
SPEAKER 8: I don't know. Can you hear me?
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Yes.
SPEAKER 8: I happen to come from Uganda. And [INAUDIBLE] because [? we, ?] I think, contributed a chapter in the book or presented in one of the conferences, was once the vice president for Uganda. And I quite know her very well.
I don't know. I have not read the book. But I'd like to see the connectedness between corruption, government wastage, and food systems and food production, and the government policies. I know for one that there can be a good policy. And Uganda [INAUDIBLE] in as far as formulating policies in putting them down on paper. We've had the [INAUDIBLE] We've had many such policies come up. But then when it comes to the resources that are [? put ?] [? to ?] implement those policies, where do they go?
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: Can I turn the question around and ask you, since you come from Uganda, what is it going to take to turn those plans and rhetoric into action for poor people? What is it going to take?
SPEAKER 8: And again, I think he raises an important issue with external influence and external driven kind of policy making. I know that over the years between 1990 and 2000, there was thi this move to a [? structure ?] adjustment, government disengagement in private people's businesses, and less of investment in different sectors within different countries.
And what has happened in Uganda over the years, we used to have what was called cooperatives. And these were different crop-based groups that somehow were supported by the government. But they were there in the banana, in the coffee, in the [INAUDIBLE], in different-- and they had a very strong extension component, strong marketing component. But between 1990 and 2000, all that broke down and there is no structure to bind these different crops, how they are produced and how they are marketed, and the research that might even answer some of the pertinent questions over there.
So I think to some extent if you have poor farmers, we can all sit down. But if they are not organized into certain groups through which they can be able to articulate some of the issues that they have that they face, what are the key pest management issues that they face, what are the key [INAUDIBLE] to marketing their product, and what are the issues even to advocates for government [? whatever ?] they might be, like corruption, like [INAUDIBLE] they might see, [INAUDIBLE]. Because if you're dealing with groups, you're dealing with groups. But if you're dealing with individuals-- so I don't know how that-- whether that comes up in the book, but talk about corruption or talk about groupings and being able to put these farmers into certain segments that can be [? targeted. ?]
PER PINSTRUP-ANDERSEN: It does not come up in this book. But I just finished a manuscript for a textbook where it is treated in great detail, particularly the farmer association, the collective action. We talk a little bit about corruption, but not very much. It's hard to get data for that. But let me ask the panel if you want to comment on any of what was just said. No?
Well, let me then thank all of you for coming. And before I turn this meeting back to the host, to Patrick Stover, I want to thank the panel members. Please join me in expressing our thanks to them.
PATRICK STOVER: Yes, thank you all for coming again. I want to point out that this project has already received a great deal of visibility. The symposium that was held at the United Nations was opened by President Skorton. At the conclusion of that symposium, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, publicly thanked Cornell University through a press release for initiating this project.
But we really don't want to stop there. I think our goal, Per, is for this to become a bestseller. It's right now available through the Cornell Press distribution system. It's available at all the United Nations bookstores throughout the world. And it's also available outside this store. So I encourage all of you who are interested to consider buying a copy of the book. And I think some of the authors may even sign their chapters if you ask nicely. And please join us outside for a reception. Thank you.
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To improve human health and nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa, barriers that exist between the food and health systems need to be broken down, contends Per Pinstrup-Andersen, a 2001 World Food Prize laureate and the H.E. Babcock Professor of Food, Nutrition and Public Policy at Cornell.
Pinstrup-Andersen's book, "The African Food System and Its Interaction with Human Health and Nutrition" (Cornell University Press, 2010), launched on campus Nov. 23 with a panel discussion featuring Rebecca Nelson, Anna Herforth and Chris Barrett. Introduction by Patrick Stover.