Developing Countries

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SASS (Sustainable Agri-food System Strategies project)

It is an international and multidisciplinary project funded by the Italian Ministry of University and Research, that operates in two specific area of the Sub-Saharan Africa: Kenya and Tanzania. The team is composed by the University of Milan-Bicocca (PI), the University of Pavia, the “Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore” of Piacenza and the University of Gastronomic Sciences of Pollenzo, coordinated by the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). Thanks to the multidisciplinary approach the project allows analyzing the same local food systems from different perspectives (clinical, biological, socio-economical, agro-botanical, microbiological, anthropological), acknowledging the importance of a cross-sectional model of analysis, with different integrated skills working together towards common final aims. The SASS Project aims to create knowledge, policy dialogue and partnerships to implementing Sustainable Food Systems, supporting public policies and investments in Africa, Europe and at the global level. The objective is to develop guidelines, that could represent a start point for future research and governance strategies, through the assess the role that Neglected and Underutilized Species (NUS) could play to make local agri-food systems more sustainable. In this context the Laboratory of Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition, Department of Public Health, Experimental and Forensic Medicine University of Pavia (Italy) focused its research line on childbearing-age women (15-49 years old) living in the peri-urban and urban district of Arusha to evaluate their food habits and the food knowledge of the sample.

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1. Conti MV, Gnesi M, De Giuseppe R, Cena H. The development of a food knowledge questionnaire for tanzanian women of childbearing age. Nutrition. 2021 Oct;90:111218. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2021.111218. Epub 2021 Mar 3. PMID: 34224980.
2. Conti MV, De Giuseppe R, Monti MC, Mkindi AG, Mshanga NH, Ceppi S, Msuya J, Cena H. Indigenous vegetables: a sustainable approach to improve micronutrient adequacy in
Tanzanian women of childbearing age. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2021 Oct;75(10):1475-1482. doi: 10.1038/s41430-021-00865-x. Epub 2021 Feb 2. PMID: 33531639.
3. Conti MV, Gnesi M, De Giuseppe R, Giampieri F, Monti MC, Mshanga N, Kinabo J, Msuya J, Cena H. Validation of a Food Knowledge Questionnaire on Tanzanian Women of Childbearing Age. Nutrients. 2022 Feb 7;14(3):691. doi: 10.3390/nu14030691. PMID: 35277050; PMCID: PMC8840700.
4. Conti MV, Gnesi M, Mshanga N, De Giuseppe R, Giampieri F, Cena H. Food knowledge level among Tanzanian women of childbearing age: developing a score for the food knowledge questionnaire. J Nutr Sci. 2023 Apr 4;12:e42. doi: 10.1017/jns.2023.28. PMID: 37123387; PMCID: PMC10131052.

Special supplementary fund for research, FISR. CUP: H42F16002450001. 2017



It is a people-centered and cross-sectoral project, aiming to improve the health condition and livelihoods of the inhabitants of two rural communities in the north-west of Madagascar, for a total of 700 people. This will be achieved by providing access to WASH facilities, improved nutrition and a safer domestic environment. In particular, the project will:
● reduce the prevalence of water-borne diseases through access to clean water, sanitation and the promotion of good hygiene practices;
● reduce malnutrition by introducing sustainable organic gardens aimed at increasing food provision and dietary diversity;
● reduce the incidence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) through access to improved cooking methods.
The lack of basic services exposes the population to health-related risks, in addition to social and environmental ones. The proposed project, which will be a two-year continuation of the WASH programme initiated by “H4O, Help for Optimism” in 2018, will entail a holistic approach focusing on the following sectors: WASH, Food & Nutrition and Clean Cooking. Nosy Mitsio inhabitants are highly vulnerable to faecal-oral diseases and respiratory diseases due to the absence of WASH infrastructures and the use of indoor open fires. The project therefore aims to provide access to clean drinking water, ecological sanitation and improved cookstoves. Furthermore, in order to ameliorate health conditions, the project will focus on reducing malnutrition by identifying the criticalities of the local diet and using them to shape the development of climate-smart agricultural practices. Thanks to training and awareness-raising activities, the project will promote community development and will empower the population to be self-sufficient. The direct beneficiaries of the project will be 700 inhabitants of the island, with a strong focus on children and women. The latter will play a central role in the implementation of the project and will benefit from enhanced opportunities for inclusion and empowerment.

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Conti MV, Itani L, Beretta A, Yaghi K, Filosa A, Monti C, Cena H. An overview of the nutritional status of childbearing age women, children and adolescents living in a rural area of Madagascar: preliminary results of the Tany Vao project. Public Health Nutr. 2024 Jan 29;27(1):e52. doi: 10.1017/S1368980024000259. PMID: 38282033; PMCID: PMC10882536.


Progetto cofinanziato da Chiesa evangelica Valdese 2021 Fondazione Peppino Vismara, 2021


ACTION PROJECT (Nakuru, Kenya: local seeds valorization and nutritional education)

The global food emergency has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, Sub-Saharan Africa was one of the most food-insecure regions, expected to be home to more than half of the world chronic malnutrition ( africa-426-children-day-risk-death-hunger-following-impact-covid-19). There is an urgent need for actions that can help building novel resilient food systems locally adapted to prevent any economic impact resulting from the existing/future crises. “The answer to mitigate, adapt and reduce the effects of climate change comes in the form of a single seed: the pulse” ( Legumes represent a sustainable solution to improve nutrition quality. More than 80% of Kenya’s economy is dependent on agriculture that has a relevant role in food security/employment/income generation. Grain legumes are commonly grown in smallholder farming systems for home consumption, with minimal use for commercial purposes, except for bean farmers. The beans value chain in Kenya involves 50.000 growers (average profit of 750 USD per year or 60.000 KSh), with an estimated export market of 4.4 billion KSh (EU, UK, South Africa) ( Food gardens, located in schools and communities, are fundamental to strengthening farmers’ knowledge on agroecological farming, promoting agroecology, boosting seed and food security, and engaging youth in agroecology business enterprises. Smallholder farmers are excluded from the high-value agro-food market chains. They are operating in a competitive environment: agricultural markets in sub-Saharan Africa are not well integrated, with a high range in prices across regions and seasons. Trade is expensive, with high and poor credit availability. Many small producers of legumes, operating now only at the family level, could produce more vegetables thanks to better management of local seeds and, thus, try to conquer a position in local or regional markets. Furthermore, for farmers in remote and marginal areas, it is less risky to explore markets for low input and lower investment cultivations to safeguard home consumption and target domestic or niche markets for traditional or novel foods
instead of competing directly with global markets for the supply of a single input and investment intensive commodity crop (IFAD 2021).  In Kenya, small-scale agriculture employs over 60% of the workforce and contributes 24% of GDP. Nakuru is one of the 47 counties of Kenya located in the former Rift Valley Province with 2.162.202 inhabitants (2019 census). The area is particularly suited to agricultural activity and a prevalence of mixed agriculture (forage crops and for human nutrition) where corn, beans, potatoes, and Irish wheat, fruit, vegetables, and flowers are the most widespread. The main livestock farms include cattle, poultry, sheep, and goats. The different challenges that exist include climate change, reduced local and national government investment, unfavorable political environment, low prices and limited added value of agricultural products, market access. Slow Food Kenya (the local association of Slow Food based in the county town, Nakuru) involves its network of projects (450 gardens, 8 Presidia, 1 Earth Market) and related producer communities. The project focuses on communities indigenous Maasai and Ogiek present in Nakuru county, particular attention is given to small farmers with a maximum capacity of 2 ha of land. They mostly practice mixed agriculture, which includes the cultivation of local crops and livestock breeding. Agroecology is at the heart of the activities, combining science with traditional indigenous knowledge. The project starts from the assumption that improving the techniques of care and conservation of the input necessary to produce food, or seeds, contributes to solving the challenge of &quot;crop biodiversity&quot; in Kenya. Ensuring seed quality means strengthening the resilience of local communities as well as promoting conservation of biodiversity and traditional knowledge. By promoting sustainable agriculture that is based on local varieties and crops resilient to climate change, the project also aims to raise awareness about the positive impact on the health of individuals and the community, trying to counteract the current dynamics of market supply and demand which continue to pay very little attention to agroecological products.


Conti MV, Gnesi M, Zelaschi N, Yaghi K, Ghazi L, Cena H. A new methodology to structure a nutrition educational course: the results of a short-term educational-intervention pilot
study. Journal of Nutritional Science. 2023;12:e70. doi:10.1017/jns.2023.55


Cariplo Factory, Coopen 2021 call – Food and sustainable agriculture. (CUP: F15F2100215000.)

#Food-System #Sustainability #HealthyLifestyle #Africa #women #ChildbearingAge