The odds are favorable that a healthy, well-nourished woman will have a healthy baby. But, at a time when agricultural investments and productivity of food staples are finally increasing in Africa, the number of children in Africa who are stunted due to malnutrition is climbing: from 50.8 million in 2000 to 58.6 million in 2012. Stunting is a common result of malnutrition during pregnancy. Furthermore, widespread malnutrition is undermining the health and limiting the opportunities of almost one in four people in Africa. The ripple effects of malnutrition extend beyond the affected individuals. Malnutrition can impact a society as a whole, it is estimated that malnutrition can reduce a country's economic advancement by 8 percent or more.
The current disconnect between agriculture and nutrition must end.
Agricultural development initiatives have the potential to improve the nutrition of those most vulnerable to malnutrition-women of child-bearing age and children from conception through to their second birthday-as well as the general population. But while the link between agriculture and nutrition seems intuitive, it cannot be taken for granted. Indeed, direct evidence linking agriculture and nutrition programs is weak. In fact, the intense focus of many agricultural programs on increasing productivity for staple foods can even come at the expense of nutritional security. To fulfill their potential for reducing poverty and hunger, agricultural development initiatives must incorporate nutrition-sensitive interventions, and ensure that consumption of essential proteins, minerals and vitamins rise, along with calorie intake.