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Improving food safety and human health through agricultural research: CGIAR future plans


Tanzanian boy with large jug of fresh milk (photo credit: East African Dairy Development project).

A useful summary of the future plans of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington, DC, has been published. Two of the five flagships of this multi-institutional research program are led or co-led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Nairobi, Kenya. Future work of these two flagships is described below.

‘Beginning in 2012, the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has provided an innovative perspective on the relationships between agriculture, nutrition, and health through research that strengthens the knowledge base and through new partnerships that lead to outcomes. . . . Led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington, D.C., A4NH’s research activities are carried out through five flagship research programs and three cross-cutting units based across the globe working with partners on projects in at least 30 countries. This brief provides A4NH stakeholders with a summary of the full proposal we submitted in March 2016 to the Consortium Board for the next generation of the CRPs. . . .’

‘Food safety is moving rapidly up the development agenda as major new studies reveal its severely under-estimated importance. Solutions that are effective in developed countries and export systems have not translated well to informal or formalizing markets. There is an urgent need for technical and institutional solutions to food safety challenges, and broader policy and regulatory approaches to manage food safety risks in dynamic, developing markets.

‘Food Safety (Flagship 3) addresses these challenges through targeted research on technological and institutional solutions and appropriate policy and regulatory options that align public health goals with country priorities to ensure that food is both safe and equitable for the poor. Primarily, this flagship focuses on mitigating aflatoxin contamination in key staples and on managing risks in informal markets for nutrient-rich perishables like meat, milk, fish, and vegetables. In close collaboration with value chain research in other CRPs and with partners, this flagship will reach tens of millions of consumers, millions of farmers, and thousands of market agents working in priority countries in Africa and Asia.

The Flagship 3 topics are consolidated into three main clusters of activities
‘1) Evidence that Counts generates evidence on questions at the interface of agriculture and foodborne diseases so that key food safety evidence users (donors, academics, INGOs, national policymakers, civil society, and industry) are aware of and use evidence in the support, formulation and/or implementation of pro-poor and risk-based food safety approaches.

‘2) Safe Fresh Foods conducts research on how an institutional innovation known as training & certification (T&C) can improve the quality and safety of fresh foods (initially limited to dairy and meat), in order that market-based food safety innovations, like T&C, are delivered at scale in key countries along with understanding of their impact and appropriate use.

‘3) Aflatoxin Mitigation looks at how use of farm-level mitigation technologies and practices, like good agricultural practices, resistant varieties, and/or biocontrol (aflasafe™), could reduce aflatoxin exposure among consumers with the goal of seeing biocontrol and good agricultural practices delivered at scale in key countries along with understanding of their impact and appropriate use. . . .

‘Research that bridges disciplinary divisions and enhances links between agriculture and health provides a largely untapped opportunity to improve the health and livelihoods of poor people, especially in rural areas where ill health may be the most critical pathway for staying or becoming poor, and undermines the benefits of agricultural development. Improving Human Health (Flagship 5) is an innovative collaboration between public health and agriculture researchers aimed at mitigating health risks and optimizing benefits in agricultural systems.

‘This flagship is led by a joint partnership arrangement co-convened by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), thus bridging agriculture and public health research to deliver high-quality scientific outputs and to identify new key opportunities for integrated actions that improve human health. Flagship 5 will also host a Platform for Public Health and Agriculture Research Collaboration, convened by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which will serve as a resource for other CRPs looking to collaborate on agriculture and health.

Priorities for cross-sectoral research fall into three clusters of activities
‘1) Diseases in Agricultural Landscapes concentrates on understanding the health effects of agricultural intensification, including changes in water use, so that agricultural research initiatives, including those in farming communities, are more aware of how and why it is important to measure health risks and benefits.

‘2) Emerging and Neglected Zoonotic Diseases studies shared human and animal disease risks and explores the impacts of co-locating and aligning health and agricultural interventions for effective management so that agricultural and public health policymakers and implementers deliver coordinated and effective solutions to cysticercosis, in particular, and other zoonotic threats; and public and private sector policymakers.

‘3) Global Challenges on Agriculture and Health coordinates research on tackling emerging, common problems for health and agriculture, such as antimicrobial resistance and pesticide resistance, in order for public and private sector policymakers to implement measures to reduce health risks from antimicrobial resistance in hotspot livestock systems. . . .’

Read the whole brief: A4NH—Plans for phase II (2017–2022), IFPRI, 2016.

For more information, contact Delia Grace, the ILRI scientist who leads this A4NH work, at d.grace [at] cgiar.org, or Tezira Lore, the ILRI communications officer covering this work, at t.lore [at] cgiar.org. Lore manages a blogsite for this work at: AgHealth. And you’ll find all of this CRP’s five flagships covered at the A4NH website.


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