Health


CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health 2018 annual report cover

The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has published its 2018 annual report, highlighting program activities and research results from across A4NH’s five research flagships and five focus countries. These include:

  • research into consumer choices, motives and barriers through the lens of vegetable consumption in urban Nigeria;
  • building the evidence base with newly-published research that shows biofortified high-iron pearl millet can significantly improve nutrition and cognitive performance;
  • significant research contributions to help policymakers and consumers understand food safety issues and risks;
  • how agriculture and nutrition interventions delivered through community-based childcare centres can impact nutrient intake, dietary diversity and nutritional status;
  • improving hospital diagnostics for human brucellosis; and
  • an exploration of gender research projects being conducted under A4NH.
Food market near Khulungira Village, in central Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).
Food market near Khulungira Village, in central Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Today marks the first ever World Food Safety Day following the adoption in December 2018 of a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly to set aside 7 June of every year to celebrate the benefits of safe food and inspire action towards preventing and managing foodborne diseases.

In Asia and Africa, most livestock products and fresh produce are sold in informal markets. The human health burden from foodborne disease is comparable to that of malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis. Unsafe food is also a barrier to market access for poor farmers.

Food safety is a key part of the research portfolio of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). ILRI leads the food safety flagship of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). This flagship seeks food safety solutions that can work in informal markets; it focuses primarily on mitigating aflatoxin contamination in key staples and on managing risks in informal markets for nutrient-rich perishables like meat, milk, fish and vegetables.

Our approach to food safety research is based on risk analysis. We identify the hazards in food and build the capacity of policymakers to understand risk-based approaches; policy will be more effective and efficient if based on actual risk to human health rather than the presence of hazards. We generate evidence and develop solutions to improve the safety of animal products in informal food markets.

Better management of foodborne diseases could save nearly half a million lives a year and safeguard the livelihoods of over one billion small-scale livestock producers. Indeed, there is no food security without food safety.

Some of the collaborative food safety projects that ILRI has led in the past include work on mitigating the risk of mycotoxins in the feed–dairy value chain in Kenya, improving food safety in smallholder pig value chains in Vietnam and food safety risk assessment and piloting of food safety interventions in eight countries in Africa.

Our current food safety projects seek to test market-based approaches to improve food safety in Cambodia, Vietnam, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.  

Listed below are some recent publications on food safety by ILRI and partners.

For more information on ILRI’s food safety research, contact the A4NH food safety flagship leader Delia Grace Randolph (d.randolph@cgiar.org).

Makara market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Makara market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (photo credit: ILRI/Hardisman Dasman).

The safety of food is a global concern and it is widely acknowledged that there can be no food security without food safety. Indeed, food safety is closely linked to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

A technical brief titled Food safety and the Sustainable Development Goals sets out the linkages between food safety and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), identifies priority issues and suggests how investments in food safety can help attain the SDGs. The focus is on low- and middle-income countries whose development needs are most urgent and where the burden of foodborne disease is highest.

The brief discusses both the likely role of food safety in contributing to or retarding progress to meet the SDGs as well as the interventions or responses that can maximise benefits and reduce risks. It draws attention to unintended consequences of food safety interventions, which, while attempting to improve public health, may jeopardise other objectives such as improving nutrition or gender equity.

Access the brief, Food safety and the Sustainable Development Goals by Delia Grace, joint leader of the Animal and Human Health program at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).


Farmer herds his three bulls in Nikhekhu Village, Dimapur, Nagaland, India (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Rapid urbanization in India has led to expansion of peri-urban fringes, where intensive, industry-style livestock rearing has led to emerging vulnerabilities at the human-animal-environment interface.

To better understand the health system and farm-level factors that influence the risk of transmission of bovine tuberculosis in animals and humans, a qualitative study was undertaken among smallholder dairy farms in peri-urban zones in three cities in India: Guwahati, Ludhiana and Bangalore. Data were collected through literature reviews, expert consultations and in-depth interviews.

The study, published in BMC Public Health (March 2019), found that farmers consulted veterinarians as a last resort after home remedies and quacks had failed. Damage control measures, especially with respect to selling or abandoning sick animals, added to the risk of disease transmission.

Although civic authorities believed in the adequacy of a functioning laboratory network, end users were aggrieved at the lack of services. Despite the presence of extension services, knowledge and awareness were limited, promoting risky behaviour.

In addition, the absence of policies on the management of bovine tuberculosis may have influenced stakeholders not to consider it to be a major animal and public health concern.

“Evidence is needed not only about the burden and risks, but also on possible options for control applied in the local Indian setting,” the authors say.

The study also recommends that the identified gaps in knowledge be addressed through collaborative research and One Health interventions involving both animal and human health sectors.

Access the article Community, system and policy level drivers of bovine tuberculosis in smallholder periurban dairy farms in India: A qualitative enquiry by A.S. Chauhan and others.

Sheep market in Doyogena, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

To tackle a growing problem of rising antimicrobial resistance in low- and middle-income countries, CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future, is forming an international hub to help integrate and channel research and development efforts.

The hub, launched on 21–22 February 2019, in Nairobi, Kenya, will be led and hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs are among the most important tools available to medical and veterinary professionals for curing human and animal diseases and improving their welfare, yet these drugs are increasingly failing. Development of resistance to these drugs in disease-causing bacteria and other microbes poses a major threat to global development; the World Bank estimates that annual global gross domestic product could fall by more than 1 trillion United States dollars (USD) by 2030 because of it.

While the World Bank also estimates that investments of USD 6 to 8 billion annually could mitigate this loss, at present, it seems the antimicrobial resistance problem will get rapidly worse before it gets better. Large quantities of antimicrobial drugs are used to cure human illness and provide healthy livestock and fish for food.

Though specifics are unknown, use of antimicrobials for livestock and in aquaculture, is rising, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. These antimicrobials are often used in suboptimal ways, such as applying dosages too little to be effective or over too long a time period to be environmentally healthy, or the wrong drugs are used, or antibiotics are used for diseases not caused by bacteria. Humans, livestock and fish excrete these drugs, which leads to environmental contamination, including that of water systems.

Globally, the main driver of the growing incidence of antimicrobial resistance in humans is overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human medicine, which applies selective pressure for resistant pathogens. But antimicrobial use in agriculture to control animal and plant diseases also contributes to this growing drug resistance problem, although experts don’t know the contribution of agriculture to the problem in humans.

The greatest challenges and burdens of antimicrobial resistance will be felt by the poorest in poorer countries. While these countries with their rapidly growing populations face the greatest and rising demand for increased food production, their populations also tend to have poorer access to relevant knowledge, veterinary and health services. The countries face challenges in enforcing regulations and understanding and implementing effective antimicrobial resistance surveillance.

With its mandate to improve the livelihoods of poor people, improve food and nutrition security and improve natural resource management through agriculture and food research, CGIAR is ideally positioned to tackle agriculture-related antimicrobial risks in developing countries and to develop, test and promote solutions to mitigate these risks together with its partners.

Like climate change and malnutrition, two other global challenges CGIAR works to address, antimicrobial resistance challenges us to use evidence and find ways to change the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of people. Any solutions will require combining technical, institutional and policy innovations and leveraging the contributions of different sectors and disciplines, and both public and private actors.

The new CGIAR Antimicrobial Resistance Hub will work to foster learning from past experiences, support research excellence in the global south and ensure a critical mass of coordinated research to find suitable and sustainable solutions. ILRI will be joined in this effort by three CGIAR research programs—Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, FISH and LIVESTOCK—along with three CGIAR centers—the International Food Policy Research Institute, the International Water Management Institute and WorldFish. Together, these seven research programs and institutions with their national partners and partner research organizations outside CGIAR, will support global research efforts among experts the world over—from low- to middle- to high-income countries.

For more information about the CGIAR Antimicrobial Resistance Hub, contact Barbara Wieland at b.wieland@cgiar.org or Delia Grace Randolph at d.randolph@cgiar.org.

ILRI Clippings

Written by Silvia Alonso

Veterinary epidemiologist Silvia Alonso works at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), where she contributes to the food safety flagship of the CGIAR Research Program for Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), which is led by ILRI’s sister organization the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Alonso had some eye-popping things to say about food safety in Africa at the ‘First FAO/WHO/AU International Food Safety’ conference, held in Addis Ababa, 12–13 Feb 2019.

But first, for context, see below what The Economist Espresso had to say about this week’s food safety conference in the Ethiopian capital, where a Global Food Safety Partnership report was launched, to which ILRI scientists made many contributions (Hungry for change: Food safety (12 Feb 2019).

‘With an estimated 600m cases each year, food-borne diseases are an under-appreciated public-health problem. Africa, which suffers 137,000…

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Locally made beef stew sold in Bagnon market at Yopougon, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (photo credit: ILRI/Valentin Bognan Koné).
Locally made beef stew sold in Bagnon market at Yopougon, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (photo credit: ILRI/Valentin Bognan Koné).

Donor investment in food safety in sub-Saharan Africa should have greater focus on the needs of consumers in Africa, according to a new report by the Global Food Safety Partnership.

The report, Food safety in Africa: Past endeavors and future directions, analysed donor investment in over 500 food safety projects undertaken in sub-Saharan Africa since 2010. It found that more than half of these projects were focused on overseas markets and less than half on consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, most of whom rely on informal food markets and bear the greatest health burden of unsafe food.

According to estimates from the World Health Organization, foodborne disease in Africa results in 137,000 deaths and 91 million cases of illness a year. Globally, foodborne disease has a public health burden similar to HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

Recognizing that food safety is essential to the success of Africa’s agriculture-led development strategies, the report’s authors, whose partners included the International Livestock Research Institute and the African Development Bank, make three key recommendations for targeted investment aimed at improving food safety in sub-Saharan Africa:

Better address the health of domestic consumers dependent on informal markets. Governments and international donors should put citizen health at the heart of national food safety systems, establishing health-based goals, priorities, metrics and strategies and helping to generate the missing evidence needed for rational planning.

Build capacity for well-governed, evidence- and risk-based food safety systems. The donor community and national governments should endorse principles of science- and risk-based prevention, adapted to local conditions.

Harness today’s marketplace drivers of progress on food safety. Donors and national governments should support the consumer and marketplace drivers of progress on food safety through well-informed and empowered consumers, able to demand food safety, and a private sector that has capacity and accountability to respond to consumer demand.

Access the report, Food safety in Africa: Past endeavors and future directions, and related resources

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