Kenyan researchers will take part in a Sh1.3 billion ($15 million) campaign financed by the Australian government to seek ways of improving food security for children under five years and expectant mothers in sub-Saharan Africa.
The researchers will specifically look for feasible ways to address water use and post-harvest crop failures.
The region loses Sh320 billion ($4 billion) a year in grains wastage alone.
An emphasis on food security for expectant mothers and infants is seen as a sure way of addressing the region’s high rates of stunted growth in children under five.
“Research will build on existing work that is helping women farmers in Kenya to triple the yields of their maize crops and poultry farmers in Tanzania to better utilise water supplies,” Bob Carr, Australian Foreign minister said last week.
The research will focus on the needs of these women and children in a region where more than a quarter of sub-Saharan Africans – around 234 million people – are suffering from mal-nutrition at the moment.
The recurrent food crises in different parts of Africa is the subject of an international forum under the theme, “Food Security in Africa: Bridging Research and Practice,” held in Sydney last week.
The forum was attended by a delegation of African Agriculture ministers, bureaucrats, researchers and policy makers, a statement from Australian Embassy in Nairobi said.
Key food security specialists speaking at the forum said crop failures have made Africa the only continent that has been growing poorer in the past 25 years.
The participants were mainly from Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub.
“The aim is to develop African science leadership so that we can foster the knowledge and technologies required for achieving growth to feed our continent and avoid future famine. That is where the true answer to the continent’s problems lies,” Segenet Kelemu, the centre’s director, said.
Judith Kimiywe, chairperson of the Department of Food, Nutrition and Dietetics at Kenyatta University and one of speakers at the international forum said under-nutrition and obesity have struck policy makers in equal measure.
There are large numbers of food-insecure Africans - currently over 10 million people in Kenya suffer from chronic food insecurity and poor nutrition.