Author: Frederick Kofi Asare, Nutrition Specialist (Esoko)
Socioeconomic classification segments and situates part of the working class, the working poor and the poor at the base of the economic pyramid. There are about 4 billion people worldwide at the base of the pyramid, meaning over 4 billion people live with less than $2.50 a day and are excluded from the modernity of our globalized civilized societies, including consumption and choice, as well as access. (FT).
The needs of the poor population varies from infrastructure, telecommunication, transportation, energy, education, clean air, hygiene, access to health care and medicine, clean water and sanitation, financial access, pro poor lending and housing. Examining the immediate needs of the poor, it is clear that food, health and housing form the largest household expenditure, imposing huge costs on families and household. Therefore, in trying to impact the lives of the poor and reduce their precarious livelihood, innovations and pro poor combative measures of the modern era have been focused on agriculture and nutrition. Agriculture and nutrition are two areas which when invested in rightly can meet most of the immediate needs of the poor
Agriculture vs. Nutrition
Even though agriculture and nutrition contribute towards alleviating the plight of the poor, their individual impact is restricted. A solitary focus on agriculture seeks to raise income levels in farming households and ensure food security. Steps in nutrition are usually geared towards food utilization and attaining nutrition security. Fundamentally, nutrition forms the basis of healthy living through prevention; while agriculture seeks to curb hunger through food security and generate income for subsistence farmers.
“Food security is a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (world food summit 2001). In interpreting food security, certain elements which can be highlighted include “nutritious foods’ and “meeting dietary needs’ – all of which fall under the coverage of nutrition.
In spite of this, agriculture oriented measures chiefly prioritize increasing production levels, increasing yield and ensuring market access for agriculture goods. Ultimately the motives in agriculture aims towards food availability, food affordability and food distribution; however these standpoints do not necessarily satisfy the dimension of ‘nutritious food meeting dietary needs”
To address the needs of the population at the base of the pyramid through nutrition, implementations will have to meet needs such as sanitation, care conditions, clean drinking water, and health services through provision, access and utilization of nutrients. Most of these can be encompassed under nutrition security. Thus, nutrition security goes beyond food security by considering a community’s access to essential nutrients, not just calories.
Integrating Agriculture and Nutrition
To effectively ensure the right impact of nutrition and agriculture, implementations on the poor in both fields should not be assessed as fragments. A nexus should be established between agriculture and nutrition, which will help draw a momentous impact in helping the poor.
Establishing a nexus will help identify the roles and similarities between both fields. Agriculture and nutrition share an intersection, which is “food”. Making food available to individuals to be used rightly and to get the needed benefits from it is an advantage which will stem from their linkage. Agriculture is viewed as an “input”- to ensure food access and food supply stability – while nutrition complementarily reflects an “outcome” of the agriculture processes, to improve other conditions of life.
A nexus between the two sectors will result in a synergy which will amass significant impact, matching up to the unmet needs of the population at the base of the pyramid. An integration between agriculture and nutrition will facilitate innovators and stakeholders with the measure to enhance the planning process aimed towards those positioned at the basal zones of the social stratification. Integrating both fields will also provide an evaluation tool to assess the impact being made. The ultimate measure of food security is ascertained from the nutritional status of the community.
A synergy between nutrition and agriculture can elapse the two sectors and form links with other branches to address varying conditions which influence the lives of the vulnerable. If effectively merged the resultant effect of the synergy has potential to go beyond producing unilateral result and can culminate into a web, which will influence positively the lives of the population at the base of the pyramid. An effective integration between nutrition and agriculture will help make improvements in healthcare (since good nutrition is a bed rock in preventative healthcare), women empowerment, undernutrition, clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
To positively influence the livelihood of the poor, agriculture and nutrition should be seen as a ‘whole’.