Liberia to Reduce Malnutrition through Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture

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Liberia, like other West African countries, continues to face high levels of malnutrition especially among children under five who suffer from stunting. Impeded (delayed) growth is one of the most common indicators of malnutrition.

Stunting is partly due to the lack of sufficient information on the growing and consumption of nutritious food in the country. More significantly, Liberia’s agriculture sector has a vast potential to increase food production and employ the majority of the country’s population who are vulnerable to malnutrition. But the sector suffered some setbacks over the decade as a result of limited funding, thus causing food and nutrition security to continue to remain a challenge.

According to the 2013 demography and health survey on Liberia, 32 percent of children under five suffered from stunting. The FAO also reports that the Average Dietary Energy Supply Adequacy (ADESA), indicator measuring the adequacy between energy intake and energy needs for an individual, increased from 99 percent in 2003-2005 to 109 percent in 2014-2016. As a result, the proportion of undernourished people in Liberia has reduced from 38.8 percent in 2005-2007 to 31.9 percent in 2014-2016, though that percentage is still high.

To ensure that local stakeholders are sensitized to the importance of the production of the entire food value chain to enhance nutrition, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) on Friday, December 2, concluded a two-day workshop in Monrovia that sensitized national stakeholders to the need to integrate nutrition-sensitive agriculture into the country’s agriculture investment plans.

The workshop brought together more than 40 stakeholders from diverse sectors, including public institutions, non-state actors, technical and financial partners.

It is a series of workshops being conducted separately in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Togo and Liberia under the ECOWAS Commission on Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), which was launched in 2003.

CAADP is in response to the agricultural problems in Africa which relate to African governments addressing insufficient productivity and production in agriculture to effectively contribute to the socioeconomic growth of African states.

Delivering a speech on behalf of FAO Country Representative Abdala Marc during the workshop, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) country representative to Liberia, Dr. Alex Gasasira, said the fight against malnutrition is a global commitment that is aimed at ensuring food and nutrition security to end hunger around the World.

“It is important to note that the improvement of the agricultural performance did not have a significant impact on malnutrition reduction, despite the potential of the sector to contribute to tangible nutrition outcomes.

“This can be partially attributed to the insufficient mainstreaming of nutrition into Liberia’s Agriculture Sector Investment Program (LASIP). Actually, this trend is changing as the government, with support from its partners, has decided to correct the situation by using the opportunity of the elaboration of the new Agricultural Investment Plan, the Liberian Agricultural Transformation Agenda (LATA),” he said.

According to Dr. Gasasira, the workshop was very essential because it provided the participants with the tools needed to better integrate nutrition aspects into LATA to contribute to the strengthening of multi-sectoral collaboration.

For his part, the Deputy Minister for Technical Services at the MoA, Sizi Subah, underscored the need for stakeholders to be educated on all of the practical tools needed to integrate nutrition into agriculture in order to reduce malnutrition in the country.

“Nutrition means to eat the different kinds of food that have nutrient requirements. When we combine nutrition and agriculture we will be engaging fully in primary agricultural activities which demand that we increase food production and develop the entire value chain to improve nutrition,” he stated.

Dr. Subah said that Liberia was making some efforts to addressing the issue of food and nutrition security, but more is still needed.

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