Director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) José Graziano da Silva has called for integrated nutrition strategies to help countries deal with rapidly changing diets, in a presentation at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands.
Graziano da Silva said that many countries were failing to cope with the impact of urbanisation and increased wealth on diets, and consumers needed to be provided with better information on food.
“We need integrated nutrition strategies, formed with the inputs of society as a whole – the private sector, consumers, doctors, and consumer organizations and others," he said.
In particular, he said that some region-specific crops were being forgotten in modern diets, citing the example of quinoa in the Andean region, which has seen a resurgence in developed markets in recent years as a highly nutritious ‘superfood’.
“Every region has a variety of non-commodity crops that were used in the past as food," he said.
He added that regional needs should also be taken into consideration in agriculture, and he warned that technology must not simply be exported from one country to another, but must be adapted for local needs.
“Agriculture is too sensitive and location specific," he said. "Soil, climate, water availability and so many other factors influence how one technology will work elsewhere.
"We need to ask farmers what they need, what they want, see what could fit, how it needs to be adapted and ensure that whatever we do ends up being ‘owned' by the farmers themselves.”
There is also room for different agricultural models, including industrial agriculture and small-scale farming, he said.
During his two-day visit to the Netherlands, Graziano da Silva signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Wageningen to promote greater collaboration on research and activities to support education, research and technology in developing countries. The agreement also covers information and policy exchange, and exchange of scientific staff, among other things, the FAO said.
Graziano da Silva also emphasised the importance of empowering women in rural populations, and giving young people better economic opportunities in rural areas.