Healthy Food Africa project to create sustainable transformation in country’s food systems

frameworks labelled Food System Labs (FSLs)

The Healthy Food Africa (HFA) project – a European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 collaborative research development actions initiative – is developing models to create sustainable transformative food systems in six African countries including Ghana.

The project, themed ‘Improving nutrition in Africa by strengthening the diversity, sustainability, resilience and connectivity of food systems’, is working with multi-stakeholders and value chain actors to co-generate, co-develop strategic roadmaps; and co-design analytical frameworks labelled Food System Labs (FSLs) to develop a sustainable food ecosystem for the country.

The other beneficiary countries in East, West and Southern Africa include Benin, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. The European partners on the project are Finland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.

The FSLs analytical framework is based on five thematic work packages (WPs), which are: improvement of nutrition and mainstream healthy dietary patterns through increased awareness and rapid but sustainable transformation of consumption habits; and enhancement of sustainable, climate-resilient and resource-efficient production of healthy, diverse and nutritious foodstuffs/homestead-cultured fish for the local and wider communities.

Other FSLs are the development of innovative post-harvest technologies to improve food safety and reduce food waste; the promotion of innovative governance arrangements for sustainable, resilient and nutritious agri-food chains; and the development of novel food products, tools and processes to support innovative agric-business models.

Researcher, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Water Research Institute and Coordinator-FSLs – Accra, Dr. Seth Koranteng Agyakwah, speaking to media on the sidelines of the Ghana Consortium Meeting on the project at the G.S. Plaza, Accra, mentioned that in Ghana’s case the project focuses on enhancing the use of fish for a variety of sustainable products and to reduce wastage, as well as create environmentally-friendly production mediums.

“Ghana stands to benefit tremendously from this FSL project implemented by the Water Research Institute and Food Research Institute of the CSIR. Our main focus is enhancing the use of fish for healthy diets and agro-processing businesses.

“We are transforming fish produced by farmers through our processing systems or having direct healthy sales. It also touches on transforming fish products into different innovative forms for up-takers, entrepreneurs and investors,” he said.

On the production aspect, he said: “In terms of production, we are developing mechanisms and technologies that will fit the urban system in terms of fish-farming in various homes by adopting best practices which ensure safety, good health and maximise yields. So, the intervention is to engage farmers who are producing in their homes without good practices, and work with them to adopt best practices and technologies such as aquaponics”.

Dr. Amy Atter, CSIR Food Research Institute, mentioned that the wastage in fish processing and consumption is high; therefore, systems are being developed to ensure the reuse or transformation of parts of fish products like tilapia heads and bones into other useful products such as oil, among others.

Lead on Methods for Work Across Disciplines and Expertise on the project, Amit Ashkenazy, said the project – led by the Natural Resources Institute (Luke) of Finland – will provide a lasting solution for unhealthy consumption patterns aggravating the double burden of malnutrition through undernutrition and obesity in Africa.

Protection of the environment

The Lead Coordinator mentioned that, usually, how water used for fish production and processing is discharged into the environment is not healthy; therefore the project will work toward zero waste, and transforming any waste into useful products for the production of vegetables.

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