Authors: Hillary Kwesi Ketemepi, Jolene Nyako, Soma-Mahme Loobod, Amy Atter, Stephen Nketia, Seth K. Agyakwah and Queronica Q. Quartey
HealthyFoodAfrica’s Accra Food System Lab’s activities have been designed to address nutritional challenges by providing nutritional knowledge to local population and increasing their access to research-informed food products. The ultimate strategy is to investigate the dietary patterns in selected communities along the coastal belt of Ghana and to enhance utilization of local foods through evidence-based knowledge transfer.
Greater Accra Region, home to Ghana’s administrative and economic capital, accounts for 29% of the country’s urban population spread over an area that covers 1500 km2 on the southern coast land. In the Greater Accra Region, the prevalence of anaemia is 59.5% among children aged 6-59 months, 35.4% among women of reproductive age (percentage of women aged 15-49 years), and 47.2% of pregnant women with nutritional inadequacies and infectious disease account for the majority of the toll (World Bank 2019). Historically, the Ghanaian national integrated anaemia control and micronutrient deficiency strategy have heavily focused on targeted supplementation with malaria control/helminth treatment with very limited national efforts in the area of fortification, protein complementation, and social behaviour change communication programmes. Considering the limited impact of the current strategy employed, there is a need to look at a food system approach that emphasizes on local food-based strategies that address the disconnect between production and consumption levels.
As Healthy Food Africa project (an EU-funded research & innovation) strategizes to develop sustainable, equitable, and resilient food systems in African cities, the Accra Food System Laboratory’s (FSL-Ac) activities have been designed to address the nutritional challenges in the agro-food supply chain by empowering local populations with nutritional knowledge and increase access to research-informed food products. The ultimate strategy is to investigate the dietary/consumption patterns in selected communities along the coastal belt of Ghana and attempt to enhance utilisation of local food and recipes through an evidence-based knowledge transfer, behaviour change communication (sustainable transformation of consumption habits). There is special emphasis on improving nutrition and mainstreaming of local fish consumption through the development of innovative fish-based products for the local market. The research and adoption design as shown in Figure 1 shows the critical need to foster and empower women and girls through nutrition education to ensure a sustainable impact.
Literature attests that when power imbalances in terms of knowledge and incentives in communities are addressed and women are able to earn their own incomes, they invest the majority of their earnings back into their families: and on nutrition, food, healthcare, schooling, and farming activities. FSL-Ac activities and WP2 Ghana nutrition survey also identified that going forward, the empowerment of women and girls through knowledge and skills transfer is essential for improving the nutritional sensitivity; and increasing the scale of impact, coverage, and suitability of any nutrition interventions in at-risk households and individuals.
Figure 1: Schematic framework for FSL-Ac nutrition-related activities
The planned activities are not limited to the elimination of hunger by ensuring increased knowledge, access, and affordability of fish and fish product on market, the activities extend to the design and engineering of fish-based products that transcends disease prevention by improving the availability of micronutrients, increasing biological functions and promoting sustainable health. For this purpose, the following objectives were set.
- To collect and collate fish and fish product consumption surveillance data across four communities in the coastal belt of Ghana through cross-sectional survey.
- To evaluate the factors affecting the utilisation (use and/or disuse) of fish and fish products in selected coastal communities through focus group discussions and key informant survey.
- To mobilise national stakeholders to develop a dietary behavioural change advocacy plan and materials through stakeholder engagement workshops.
- To develop and optimise the food base framework to tackle the nutrient deficiencies by developing innovative fish-based products together with WP6 based on the concept of food-to-food fortification.
- To disseminate the best practices model, technical briefs, and policy recommendations to local stakeholders through workshops, documentaries, and manuals.
The strategy is governed by the pillars of food and nutrition security as stipulated by FAO and designed to give a holistic picture of food security in the target population. The various phases of activities are to test and measure how the selected nutrition education-related inputs can enhance food and nutrition security in the Ghanaian food system at the individual and aggregated levels as illustrated in Table 1 below
Table1: Summary of WP2 (nutrition-related activities ) in FSL-Ac