Production and processing of foods as core aspects of nutrition-sensitive agriculture and sustainable diets
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- Keding, G.B., Schneider, K. & Jordan, I. Food Sec. (2013) 5: 825. doi:10.1007/s12571-013-0312-6
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Some forms of malnutrition are partly due to agriculture not having nutrient outputs as an explicit goal. A better understanding of what is required from agricultural production and food processing for healthy and sustainable diets is needed. Besides nutritional quality or nutrient output, important factors are: water, soil, health hazards, agrobiodiversity and seasonality. Therefore, possible interactions among constituents of the food chain – human health, the environment, knowledge and education – should be considered from a systemic perspective. Nutrition-sensitive agriculture needs to consider and understand the role of biodiversity in improving dietary quality and dietary diversity as well as seasonality in food supply. Apart from improving agricultural systems in order to close the nutrition gap, efficient storage and food processing technologies to prolong shelf-life are required. If processing is poor, high food losses can cause food insecurity or increase the risk of producing unsafe and unhealthy food. Food storage and processing technologies, particularly at household level, are challenging and often not applicable to traditional crops. In order to achieve the aims of nutrition-sensitive agriculture, it is necessary to comprehend its complexity and the factors that influence it. This will require a trans-disciplinary approach, which will include the three sectors agriculture, nutrition and health at research, extension and political levels. Ensuring that farmers are knowledgeable about production systems, which sustainably provide adequate amounts of nutritious food while conserving the environment is an essential part of nutrition-sensitive agriculture. At the same time, for the benefits of nutrition-sensitive agriculture to be realized, educated consumers are required who understand what constitutes a healthy and sustainable diet.