FEDERAL government has been called upon to establish policies and programmes that would promote agriculture and nutrition such that they would translate into improved nutritional indices for Nigerian women and children.
Prof. Oyebiodun Longe of the Department of Animal Science, University of Ibadan who gave the assertion in Lagos recently, observed that agriculture has a central role in food supply and It helps to improve the quality of life of producers as well as the consumers.
Longe who spoke during the official launch of a book entitled "Agriculture For Improved Nutrition of Women and Children in Nigeria", published by the Nigarian Academy of Science, NAS, observed that though the web of causation for malnutrition is complex, policy guidelines have the potential to create an enabling environment in which agricultural and nutrition programmes interact to enhance population level nutritional outcomes.
"One of the objectives of the new agricultural policy launched in 2002 is achieve national food security and poverty alleviation and attain self-sufficiency in basic food commodities."
He lamented that the negative impact of an unsustainable agriculture policy was manifest on health, food security and livelihood of the people.
Noting that agriculture, nutrition and health are linked, he argued for revolutionisation of agriculture to ensure food security, saying although many agricultural policies have the achievement or improvement of food security as desired outcomes, they do not focus attention on the development and implementation of strategies to ensure that agricultural interventions translate into improved nutrition.
"The objectives are typically focused on improving productivity, income and rural infrastructure, with an assumption that an achievement of better nutrition is given once these objectives are achieved.
In linking agricultural research to nutrition policy, Longe said "Agriculture is one of the major drivers of food security. The nutrition and agriculture sectors must work together in all areas to create a synergy towards improving the nutritional status of Nigerian women and children," he urged.
In his presentation entitled "Importance of Linking Agriculture and Nutrition - A Nutritionist's Perspective, Prof. Tola Atinmo also of the University of Ibadan, said it was crucial to have a clear understanding the concept of nutrition. "To most people, including the media, there is no significant difference between food and nutrition. However, having good food does not guarantee good nutritional status.
Atinmo said: "Nutrition is established on three fundamentals, which are the food consumed, the available health care services and the basic environmental sanitation.
"The present poor national nutritional statistics is because the fundamental principles of nutrition are poorly understood, especially at the policy implementation level."