Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Health and agriculture sectors’ partnership vital for reaching food security

RESOLVING dietary health issues in the Caribbean will depend heavily on relevant sectors being able to work together at the research, policy, planning, and on the ground levels.

Director of the Institute for Global Food Security, McGill University, Dr. Hugo Melgar-Quiñonez, has said that though attempts have been made to address major health problems, research and feedback from the region have indicated that a systematic approach to dealing with the issue is still greatly lacking.

The scientist was at the time speaking at the lecture commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Bellairs Research Institute of McGill University, located in Barbados, which took place recently at the Grand Salle of the Central Bank of Barbados.

Speaking under the theme “Food Security and Small Island Developing States,” Dr. Melgar-Quiñonez told past and present alumni of McGill University, as well as food and agricultural specialists from varying local, regional and international bodies, that it was imperative for policy makers to properly assess the role of agriculture and its relationship to nutrition and health.

Noting that economic growth was critical to reaching food security, he warned that it was not in itself sufficient.

“We see huge economic growth in the USA and Canada... but there are millions of families dealing with food and security [issues],” Melgar-Quiñonez said, further stating the FAO recommendation that the enhancement of nutrition and food security status growth should involve and reach all persons, and that governments should put to use additional income to improve, not only the quantity, but also the quality of the food people were consuming, in order to improve the health of people.

The School director submitted that “people in agriculture need to learn the language of people in the health sector, and [that] the people in health and nutrition should know the language of people in agriculture and economics...”. All sectors needed to be working harmoniously for countries to become more food secure.

Areas of recommendation which Dr. Melgar-Quiñonez highlighted during his presentation were: The need to enable people to make more healthy dietary choices; the creation of production incentives for selected, local food products in order to make them more available, attractive and sustainable in the market; the regulation of the importation of agricultural products, based on local product levels from national markets, in order to protect farmers from external competition; capacity development of the manufacturing sector so that it uses more local agricultural raw materials; market diversification and being able to increase the demand for those products. (RS)

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