June 18, 2015

Africa's Great Potential for Increased Food Production and Improved Nutrition

Next Generation Delegation 2015 Commentary Series

By Esther Nampeera Lugwana, PhD candidate in Horticulture at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, JKUAT, Nairobi, Kenya, and 2015 Next Generation Delegate
Attending The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Global Food Security Symposium 2015 was a dream that came true: I felt privileged to be selected to participate as a member of the Next Generation Delegation. As a PhD student, it was special to me that I could represent African universities. I found the ideas for innovation encouraging during the Symposium because they can help solve the complex problems of increased food production and improved nutrition, especially in the developing countries of Africa. The diversity of food clearly proves that Africa has great potential for increased food production and improved nutrition. The keynote address by Purdue University President Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. on investing in collaborative science showed how healthy food is needed by all.
My aspiration for my own career in agriculture and food security is ultimately to help develop a nutritious and indigenous leafy vegetable production system for East Africa. More specifically, the amaranth species could put more nutritious food on people’s plates and more money in farmers’ pockets. Because amaranth is a leafy vegetable that supplies high nutritional quality food, consumption of amaranth improves symptoms of severely malnourished children and increase in body mass index of people formerly wasted by HIV/AIDS. The environmental adaptability and nutritional value of amaranth create a positive potential impact on poor farmers in developing countries.
My research focuses on investigating the small landholder and farmer practices of managing aphids in leafy amaranth vegetable in Kenya. Through my experiments, I intend to determine which varieties and species of amaranth have tolerance and resistance to aphids, thereby setting the stage for sustainable production of a nutritious vegetable using natural genetic tolerance or resistance.
In East Africa, many constraints hinder the production and consumption of amaranth from realizing its full potential. Primary reasons for not growing amaranth can be pests and diseases, consumer preferences and habits, cooling facilities, seasonality of production, land use, functionality of the supply chain, and so on. These challenges negatively affect the micronutrient status of the population and the agricultural production by most small landholders. A major strategy to stimulate production and consumption of amaranth needs to include the control of pests and diseases using integrated pest and disease management to bring together and utilize all the control measures concurrently or successively in an integrated way. 
As an inspired 2015 Chicago Council Next Generation Delegate and as a Borlaug LEAP Fellow, I want to translate my agricultural research findings into concrete, tangible actions that will benefit smallholder farmers. Farmers will be able to get the technologies and inputs that they need to increase food security for their families and communities. My research output will help contribute to the breakthroughs of ending hunger and ensuring food security and sustainable development, while taking full advantage of the concept of “Healthy Food for a Healthy World” on the African continent by 2025. 

Read previous posts in the Next Generation Delegation 2015 Commentary Series:

Leveraging Women's Empowerment in Agriculture, Soumya Gupta, PhD Candidate in Applied Economics, Cornell University

Healthy Soils, Healthy People: Integrating Soil Science into Nutrition Security, Andrew Margenot, PhD Candidate in Soil Science & Biogeochemistry, University of California, Davis

The Importance of Understanding Urban Food Flows, Dana Boyer, PhD candidate in Science, Technology and Public Policy, University of Minnesota

Genetic Engineering: A Tool to Strengthen Global Food Security, Megan Fenton, PhD Student in Agronomy - Plant Breeding and Genetics, Purdue University

Edible Insects as an Integrated Component of Sustainable Food Systems, Afton Halloran, GREEiNSECT and Social Science and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellow, University of Copenhagen


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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