A survey was designed for this round table to prioritise research and development questions relating to food security and nutrition. This survey attracted comments and engagement from more than 1,000 experts globally.
The experts made it clear that what is needed is a prioritisation of the health and medicinal values of the food consumed in African countries. In turn, this will spur more research and development of new supplements and phytomedicines — that is, plant-based therapies and medicines — across the continent.
This approach has been successful elsewhere, most notably in China. The Asian country has invested heavily in training young practitioners of Chinese traditional medicine who work with, among other things, plant-based therapies and phytomedicines. The Chinese government has also spent a great deal on manufacturing phytomedicines.
Food and nutrition security
Changes in traditional eating patterns have brought about new health threats on the continent, including an increase in non-communicable diseases.
Dietary interventions are also crucial in tackling type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In many cases, diet can reverse type 2 diabetes. Food is also a key component in fighting marasmus and kwashiorkor, both severe forms of malnutrition.
Many indigenous crops are under-utilised. These include bambara nuts, pigeon peas, cowpeas, sorghum, finger millets, cocoyam, amaranth and sweet potato. People are increasingly relying on new types of food products such as fast foods, processed food and genetically modified products.
Those of us who grew up in villages are used to consuming edible insects during their appropriate seasons. The younger generation generally abhors consumption of edible insects but recent scientific evidence has shown edible insects are rich in nutrients, which promotes better health.