August 17, 2018
People learn cooking methods by participating in a short course put on by the Nutrition Action Partners.
On the island nation of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean off Africa, a recipe book edited by Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and endorsed by the Ministry of Public Health and National Nutrition Office is gaining popularity.
The point of the cookbook is to provide original, highly nutritious recipes that can be made using local ingredients. The Nutrition Action Partners, who consist of JOCVs working in various fields, are using the book to hold short courses on cooking and to improve local nutrition. They're teaching local residents about nutrition in an understandable way.
The recipe book created by JOCVs working in Madagascar and endorsed by the Ministry of Public Health and National Nutrition Office
Making ravi toto cake using cassava leaves paste
Ravi toto cake is featured in the recipe book. Its matcha-like flavor is popular.
Some of the participants in the cooking course expressed surprise. "I didn't think cassava leaves, which previously were eaten only as side dish with rice, would make such a delicious cake," one said. The recipe, "ravi toto cake," is a popular one from the book.
Madagascar produces an abundance of food ingredients, but most meals consist only of white rice with salty side dishes. Knowledge about nutritional balance is not widespread. That's why JOCVs in Madagascar made a recipe book of ideas for nutritionally balanced dishes anyone can make using readily available ingredients.
JOCV Naoko Takao, who teaches cooking in the course, actually is not a nutrition expert. While working in the field of youth activities supporting children at various schools in their studies, she also is working as a Nutrition Action Partner, teaching the importance of nutritional knowledge.
Naoko Takao introduces herself in front of an elementary school class in Madagascar.
"It's definitely not good for kids to eat snack foods all the time, and it has always bothered me," she says. She wants children to eat nutritious snacks that can be made using readily available foods, an idea that led her, as a Nutrition Action Partner, to start a short cooking course using the recipe book. About 47 percent of children in Madagascar ages 5 and under are chronically malnourished, and improving their nutritional state is a major issue.
The impetus behind JICA starting the Nutrition Action Partners system was the Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security in Africa (IFNA), which JICA launched at the sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) in 2016 in an attempt to improve nutrition in Africa. Through IFNA, JICA is deepening its partnerships with aid agencies in various African countries and doing concrete work in the field to improve nutrition. JICA began the Nutrition Action Partner system internally to improve food and nutrition on the local level through work in fields including agriculture, health care and education. Participants in the Nutrition Action Partner system include JICA experts and volunteers with a desire to work on nutritional improvement.
One objective of this system is sharing information aimed at improving nutrition. When a person participates in the system as a partner, she or he receives a monthly newsletter from the Nutrition Action Partner Secretariat sharing examples and experiences of nutrition improvement by partners. The secretariat also answers questions from partners such as "Do you have data on recommended salt intake by country?"
A JOCV who is a nutritionist, right, is working as a Nutrition Action Partner. When she was carrying out a field survey on intake of water and food, there was an outbreak of cholera in the neighborhood, so she taught local residents key points on sanitation.
About 400 Nutrition Action Partners are registered in 76 countries in Africa and other parts of the world. A JOCV dispatched to Kenya as a nutritionist not only gives nutrition counseling to patients staying in the health center she is assigned to, she also carried out a field survey to investigate the diet and sanitary conditions of local residents, using her specialized knowledge to expand the breadth of the initiative.
In Guatemala, a JOCV dispatched to a public nursery attended by many impoverished children instructs them to finish every bite of the nutritionally balanced meals served there. Nutrition Action Partners all innovate in the places where they are working, such as by incorporating nutrition improvement efforts into their work in foreign countries.
"A transverse approach that incorporates agriculture, education, water, hygiene and livelihood improvement is important when working on nutrition improvement. That's why I look forward to seeing more Nutrition Action Partners from a wide variety of fields," said Hiroki Kajifusa of the Nutrition Action Partners Secretariat.
A guide at the JICA Global Plaza explains the exhibit "A world of hunger and excess: Yet food can be the key to health and a better society."
About 800 million people in the world suffer from malnutrition, but 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted per year.* Despite the fact that enough food is produced for everyone in the world, there are some who can't afford to buy food and some who can't get enough to eat.
JICA Global Plaza in Tokyo is holding the exhibition "A world of hunger and excess: Yet food can be the key to health and a better society" through September. It deals with the unbalanced state of food and nutrition in the world. The situation surrounding the food and nutrition, which are essential to everyday life, may be worth thinking about.