Over 925 million people are currently undernourished worldwide, and 3.5 million children under the age of five die from malnourishment every year. The problem is especially prevalent in Eastern Africa, where 23 million children will grow up stunted and likely permanently impaired. Most diets in these areas consist of simple grains and very few fruits and vegetables which contain key nutrients that are needed for proper mental and physical growth.
In the past, poverty alleviation efforts have been focused on increasing the quantity of food produced by farmers, rather than the quality. But recently, more attention has been paid to what kinds of foods are reaching those in poverty , and how the crops can help them not just survive, but actually improve their quality of life. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has created a unique plan for making nutritious foods a possibility for farmers to grow, and for consumers to buy.
The Marketplace for Nutritious Foods, which was started up with a $2.1 million grant from USAID, is up and running in both Kenya and Mozambique, with plans to go to Tanzania as well. The Marketplace works by searching for businesses that can provide affordable nutritious foods upon receipt of help from the organization in the form of funding for seeds, technical assistance, business support and networking opportunities. After receiving numerous applications, GAIN selectively chooses organizations that fit the program, and gives them everything they need to get nutritious foods to the consumers. The final product, which is anything from dairy products to sweet potatoes, is fully nutritious and reaches the local markets at an affordable price for the public to consume.
As a result, the public is not only given more access to nutritious foods, but the farmers also gain an opportunity for income. The Marketplace provides the incentive farmers need to produce the healthy foods necessary for the population to thrive.
– Emma McKay