ETHIOPIA – Amidst the shadows of malnutrition haunting Ethiopia’s children, a recent study published in the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition, and Development sheds light on a locally-driven remedy to address the deadly specter of wasting.

The United Nations estimates that 2.2 million Ethiopian children endure wasting, the most severe form of malnutrition, emphasizing the urgency for sustainable solutions.

While humanitarian organizations traditionally rely on foreign aid strategies, including ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) and vitamin supplements, the study argues for a paradigm shift. Adamu Belay, the study’s author, contends that such initiatives foster dependency, urging a pivot towards solutions leveraging local assets for long-term sustainability.

Moringa stenopetala: A local nutritional powerhouse

The study spotlights the potential of local starches, proteins, and Moringa stenopetala leaves as a more sustainable solution.

Abundant in essential vitamins and minerals, these leaves are hailed as a nutritional goldmine within Ethiopia.

Belay’s research concludes that a blend of 5% M. stenopetala powder with locally available staples effectively addresses protein energy malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies in children aged six months to two years.

Ted Greiner, a Professor of Nutrition at Hanyang University, attests to the success of local alternatives, emphasizing their efficacy on par with imported RUTF products.

The study challenges the prevalent notion that external solutions are the sole answer, advocating for increased awareness and prominence of locally sourced, nutritious foods.

Challenges, opportunities in localizing food production

While the benefits of localized solutions are evident, challenges persist. The Geneva Association for Infant Nutrition raises concerns about the cost and narrow focus of RUTFs, pushing for a broader perspective on addressing malnutrition beyond severe acute cases.

Efforts are underway in Ethiopia, led by organizations like the Sasakawa Africa Association, to promote community gardening and increase awareness about the importance of locally grown nutritious foods.

Dr. Fentahun Mengistu, Country Director of SAA Ethiopia, underscores the importance of community empowerment.

The Sasakawa Africa Association is actively involved in educating communities about nutritious commodities, enhancing income and purchasing power, and assisting farmers in adopting nature-positive farming systems to cultivate diverse and nutrient-dense crops.

Call for donor transformation

Ted Greiner envisions a transformative shift in donor strategies, urging support for local manufacturing capabilities. The call is to empower communities and amplify indigenous knowledge, moving away from imported solutions and allowing communities the agency to decide on their resources.

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