By Meredith Perry and Chenelle Bonavito
At the Chicago Council’s Global Food Security Symposium, Dr. Cutberto Garza, provost and dean of the faculty at Boston College, emphasized that early investment to improve infant health and nutrition yields lasting dividends. Dairy, especially milk, can play an important role in providing essential nutrients to a woman of child-bearing age, a gestating or lactating mother, and children. Research, however, suggests that milk and other animal-sourced foods, largely produced by family-owned and smallholder farms, provide less than 5% of total energy intake in many Sub-Saharan African countries and only 5% to 10% in most other African and South Asian countries.
While the milk from these farms provides an important source of essential nutrients, only limited, localized, and fragmented dairy data is available. Milk producers, researchers and policymakers lack information such as the inputs farmers use, the breed and health of the animals, the quantity and quality of the milk produced, and the methods and conditions under which the milk is consumed, transported, and sold.
This lack of centralized and comprehensive data at all levels of the dairy value chain in developing countries hampers smallholder farmers’ ability to increase the productivity of their animals as well as the quality of their milk. Greater availability of and demand for dairy products among producers and consumers could lead to improved food and financial security, higher economic returns to farmers, and possibly better nutritional outcomes for consumers.
To address this critical gap in data sharing and collection, Scientists Without Borders and The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, both programs of the New York Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced a $7,500 open innovation challenge to seek bold, innovative, and scalable ideas from students around the globe to improve the collection and sharing of dairy production and consumption data all along the value chain in developing countries.
The challenge will conclude on July 11, 2013. For more details are available on the Scientists Without Borders website. Student solvers (from the middle school to post-doctoral level) are invited to submit their ideas via firstname.lastname@example.org.