Consultative Workshop on Catalyzing Change for Healthy, Sustainable Food System in Ethiopia

Consultative Workshop on Catalyzing Change for Healthy, Sustainable Food System in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA – November 17, 2023 (NIPN/EPHI) - A two-day Consultative Workshop that focused on activating change in the food system of Ethiopians was conducted here from 16-17 November 2023, in the presence of senior researchers, university professors, government officials, and diplomats.

Professor Beyene Petros, Director General of the Policy Studies Institute (PSI), underscored in his opening remarks the significance of collaborative efforts of all stakeholders to address undernourishment and micronutrient deficiencies. He said that though Ethiopia has made significant progress in improving dietary quality, the people have remained chronically undernourished and suffered from macro-and micronutrient deficiencies like stunting, which remains the highest in the world.

Professor Beyene said that as the problem is complex in nature and cannot be addressed by the sole efforts of one organization or by the government alone, it needs the close cooperation of many actors in the overall food system. The said actors include, among others, food producers and processors, storage and transportation operators, traders, and consumers, according to the Director General of PSI.

Speaking of the objectives of the Consultative Workshop, Professor Beyene said that researchers who have long been exerting efforts would come up with preliminary findings of their respective researches for feedback and further enrichment, whereupon the final output would be forwarded to the concerned decision-makers or policy formulators.

The outputs of the research findings and feedback would create a good opportunity to identify appropriate and feasible policy options towards improving access to an affordable, healthy diet for low-income and vulnerable sections of society including women and children, Professor Beyene said.

Deputy Director General of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), Dr. Melkamu Abte, appreciated in his welcoming speech the concerted efforts geared by all stakeholders to transform the national food system in such a way that it can bring about sustainable improvement.

Despite the efforts being made by the government to make remarkable progress in the health sector, there remain “numerous food system and nutrition-related problems,” Dr. Melkamu said. He has thus underscored the importance of investing in the wellbeing of citizens in order to ensure growth and prosperity.

The consequences of malnutrition in Ethiopia will be aggravated if the existing endeavors are not enhanced and scaled up, the EPHI Deputy Director General said. Speaking of the involvement of his Institute in supporting the efforts geared towards solving the problems of the food system, Dr. Melkamu said that EPHI is committed to implementing the food and nutrition strategy as the lead agency for all monitoring, evaluation, and research needs. “The Institute is playing a role as a technical arm of the Ministry of Health with a mission to protect and promote the health of the people of Ethiopia,” Dr. Melkamu said.

Associate Professor of the School of Public Health at Addis Ababa University (AAU), Dr. Samson Gebremedhin, said on his part that the two-day Consultative Workshop would facilitate ways to come up with evidence, at the national level for decision-making and policy formulation.

Dr. Samson said that to address the double burden of malnutrition, there needs to be implemented double-duty actions. The double burden of malnutrition includes  undernutrition and over nutrition, like obesity, according to Dr. Samson. To resolve these problems Ethiopia will have to apply double-duty actions, according to Dr. Samson.

The research findings presented at the Consultative Workshop have dealt with preliminary outcomes for improving the food system. This includes problems witnessed starting from the process of production way through marketing and down at the consumers level, Dr. Samson said.

He has also mentioned the legal gaps as indicated in the research findings. Therefore, raising awareness among the general public about healthy diet, and taking measures to reform or formulate legislation have been reflected as inputs for decision-makers, according to Dr. Samson.

Dr. Samson said at length that two types of researches were presented for further discussion and scrutiny at the Consultative Workshop. The first was coordinated and supervised by PSI and EPHI, while the School of Public Health of AAU has been in charge of supervising and directing the other research.

Representing the Canadian Embassy in Ethiopia, Mrs. Ashley Mulroney said that Canada “is committed to investing in sustainable agricultural development” in Ethiopia. Mrs. Ashley Mulroney expressed her country’s readiness to support Ethiopia’s efforts to increase  productivity in small-holder farms and to extend large-scale commercial farms to the new home-grown economic performance.

A number of research findings were presented for discussion on the occasion by researchers drawn from various institutes. Representing EPHI, Dr. Aregash Samuel, a researcher and coordinator with National Information Platforms for Nutrition (NIPN) and Dawit Alemayehu, a researcher and PhD student at the University of Galway Ireland, presented their research findings at the Consultative Workshop. Particularly Dawit’s research entitled, ‘Dietary Quality Among Women, Children and Adolescent Girls’ seems to attract attention of some of the participants. Dawit has cited as conclusion for his research that, “discrepancies in nutrient intake between two seasons, influenced by factors like religious fasting practices, emphasize the importance of considering seasonal and cultural influences in nutritional interventions”.

The Consultative Workshop, which was sponsored by the International Development Research Center-Canada, was jointly organized by PSI, EPHI, and the School of Public Health of AAU.

Over 60 researchers, drawn from EPHI, PSI, higher learning institutions, NGOs, government organizations, ministries, and embassies, were in attendance at the Consultative Workshop organized under the theme ‘Catalyzing Change for a Healthy and Sustainable Food System in Ethiopia’ at Jupiter International Hotel. (EPHI/NIPN)