DAR ES SALAAM: FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel said was pleasantly surprised to see actions being taken to promote healthier diets based on locally available foods.
Dr Haile-Gabriel, who enjoyed local cuisine prepared by food vendors at Kisutu area in Dar es Salaam on Friday, said he was pleased to see actions being taken to promote healthier diets by using street food vendors to prepare healthy, nutritious and affordable meals based on locally available foods.
“This is about action. It is about results on what we have been discussing at the food systems summit,” said Mr Abebe at a launching event of a traditional food site and improved sales outlets (kiosks) for street food vendors at the area.
Seven foldable food carts had been brought at the Kisutu street food vendors’ site to represent 36 cost-effective and environmentally friendly sales outlet models provided by an EU funded AGRI-connect project to street food vendors in a national campaign to promote safe and hygienic food preparation and service.
The campaign is under European Union funded Agri-Connect flagship programme run by FAO.
“This event should have been the main highlight of the food systems summit to attract high-level dignitaries. They missed a lot,” said Mr Haile Gabriel referring to Africa’s Food Systems Forum 2023 that ended in Dar es Salaam on Friday.
He had asked the street food vendors whether the food prepared was safe, nutritious and affordable and the answers from the vendor were in affirmative.
Dr Haile-Gabriel said what he saw at Kisutu area showed it was possible to promote nutritious and affordable diets based on what is available locally.
Home to some of the world’s most fertile lands, abundant resources and a burgeoning young population, Africa remains paradoxically ensnared in the grip of food insecurity, malnutrition and challenges such as climate change, post-harvest losses and inefficient supply chains.
At least one in five Africans goes to bed hungry and an estimated 140 million people in Africa face acute food insecurity, according to the 2022 Global Report on Food Crises 2022 Mid-Year Update.
The Head of Natural Resources at the EU Delegation in Tanzania, Lamine Diallo, said the event was part of national campaign to promote traditional nutritious foods supported by Agri-Connect and the European Union to help in reducing malnutrition rates in Tanzania.
He said the joint initiative between the government of Tanzania, FAO and the EU aimed at making Tanzania food systems more resilient to external shocks and raise awareness of the population on the close link between what is grown and what is eaten.
“And sometimes we have to admit our elders were smarter than us as their food was much healthier. So, we are here today, together with Agri-Thamani, FAO and the government to promote healthy food …and to support street food vendors who are feeding Dar residents,” he said.
The campaign involves the media, schools, farmers, communities, street food vendors and musicians and hopefully the youth of this country. Together we can reach 32 million Tanzanians and may be more,” he said.
Mr Mobhare Matinyi, the Temeke District Commissioner (DC), who represented Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner (RC), Albert Chalamila, said reports from the Ministry of Agriculture show Tanzania is food self-sufficient and exports the surplus to neighbouring countries but it does not mean that every household has enough food to meet nutritional needs.
“Information shows that despite our country being self-sufficient in food, we are still facing malnutrition where a third of children are stunted.”
He said women who are also big wealth producers in various sectors and especially in agriculture have also been affected to a great extent.
“A third of women are anaemic and a third of women are overweight, which is unacceptable. This state of poor nutrition has caused deaths in children and in women, especially in pregnant mothers during childbirth,” he said.