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News and notes
Forthcoming meetings and workshops
Publications from associated institutions
International course in food science and nutrition
New director for the Tropical Products Institute
The report of the working group on the Nutritional Status of the Rural Population of the Sahel held in Paris, France, in April 1980 under joint UNU-IUNS-IUFoST-IDRC sponsorship (see Food and Nutrition Bulletin, vol. 3, no.1, pp.54-56) has been published and is now available from the International Development Research Centre, 60 Queen Street, PO Box 8500, Ottawa, Canada.
A report of the workshop on the Goals, Processes, and Indicators of Food and Nutrition Policy held jointly by the UNU World Hunger Programme and Human and Social Development Programme in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, in March 1979 (see Food and Nutrition Bulletin, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 16-23) has been published by the UN University under the title Interdisciplinary Dialogue on World Hunger. For information on ordering this publication, see the last page of this Bulletin.
A workshop on Methodological Issues in Nutritional Anthropology was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 17-20 November 1980, under the sponsorship of the International Union of Nutrition Sciences (IUNS), the International Commission on the Anthropology of Food (ICAF), the US Department of Agriculture, and the United Nations University. The objective of the workshop, which brought together 24 participants from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, including cultural and physical anthropology, nutrition, and health care, was to engage in a critical analysis of anthropological methodology as it relates and is applied to research on nutrition and food problems and issues.
As a starting point, the participants outlined major features of the theoretical research framework that characterizes much of the work in nutritional anthropology as the focus on communities and regions, the linkage between macro-, intermediate-, and micro-level contexts, the use of an ecological framework, the treatment of households and individuals as data units, and the recognition that culture and belief structures are not the principal causal forces in food use.
In discussing the priorities for methodological development within this general framework, the group considered the exploration of new approaches to operationalizing micro-level-macro-level linkages to be of particular importance. It was proposed that food production and distribution statistics and economic-expenditure and census data be aggregated and disaggregated in order to examine the statistical specifics as they apply to given sub-populations. Other proposals were that the political and economic structures that reach from national to intermediate and local levels be explored and that key macro-level influences be linked systematically and qualitatively to local-level differentials in food production and food availability.
Insofar as available statistical methods demand more rigorous measurement than is common in anthropological field-work, the workshop participants considered that refinement of the most effective combinations of statistical analysis for particular types of research problems is still lacking, and therefore the development of appropriated quantitative strategies should be given high priority. However, although multiple statistical procedures were given importance, so too were qualitative descriptive modes of research, and close articulation of the two at every stage of the research process.
Focusing on the links between socio-cultural and biological research, and noting that the main point of articulation between the two is the individual person, the group outlined a number of conditions under which nutritional anthropologists can foster cooperation with researchers of other disciplines.
The main issues and priorities at the micro-level of research were considered to be the analysis of emic perspectives, understanding of description and intracultural diversity, recognition of levels and combinations in cultural patterns, differentiation between schedules and cycles of food behaviour, examination of histories and traditions of food use, and recognition of the relationship of "real" behaviour to reported behaviour.
Participants considered that the general ethnography of nutritional anthropology should be relevant to specific food use and nutrition issues and should permit the refinement of locally appropriate variables.
The general problems of precision and estimation of error were examined, and the recognition of the differential presence and differential effects of error factors in various kinds of research was considered a first step towards the management of error.
Short chronological scope was considered to be a major methodological flaw in field research concerning food use, nutrition problems, food production systems, and related elements; and the need for longitudinal data strategies was stressed.
Other methodological issues were also discussed at the workshop but were considered problems that need to be recognized and suggestions for new types of research activities rather than priorities for methodological development.
A workshop on Farm-Level Post-harvest Technology for Prevention of Food Losses was held in New Delhi, India, 27-30 January 1981, under the sponsorship of the United Nations University and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), organized by the Department of Food, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India; the Department of Agricultural Economics, Indian Agricultural Research Institute (ICAR); and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, UK.
In six technical sessions over three days, the participants, the majority of whom were from India, discussed and evaluated the research and policy implications of 36 papers that dealt with a wide range of issues, reflecting the depth and scope of Indian research on farm-level post-harvest technology of cereals and pulses. The written presentations included results of studies on the size and source of farm-level losses for different crops and different regions, on technological design work in progress at research stations on drying, storage, and milling, descriptions of extension activities in food-loss prevention programmes in the private and public sectors, and broader analyses of the nature of Indian post-harvest problems and the economic and social aspects of farm-level technology during agricultural growth.
Although by no means reaching a consensus on them ail, the workshop made a substantial contribution to the understanding of three important and interrelated post-harvest research and policy issues: the size and distribution of farm-level losses, the requirements for and implications of loss-prevention programmes, and the potential contribution of an efficient farm-and village-level post-harvest system to reducing the costs of food stock management.
On the subject of losses, there remained some adherents to the belief that cereal losses averaging 30 per cent occur in traditional farm-level post-harvest operations, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. All the scientific evidence presented on farm-level storage indicated loss figures of 5 per cent (of value per weight of grain initially stored) and below. The figures confirmed long-established, as well as more recent, evidence that cereals stored and processed at farm- and village-level primarily for on-farm consumption are not wasted by poor and hungry small farmers. As several papers discussed, some problems of defining and measuring losses remain - notably, of including various types of qualitative deterioration, though even here the evidence is that earlier estimates of both incidence and risk in cereals have been exaggerated-and there is not reliable evidence from all regions. However, the overall picture emerging for cereals under ordinary farm management is one of low averge levels-due largely to rapid movement from production to consumption-of farm level losses. There are exceptions among farmers (generally larger ones, for whom losses have a lower marginal cost), stores (unlined underground pits in some areas), and varieties where losses are not generally as low, and there is seasonal and regional variation. However, evidence from the workshop confirms that massive increases in food-grain availability cannot result from new and improved post-harvest technology. This was not in any sense a denial of opportunities for beneficial technical change, but it was a refutation of the belief that farm-level loss prevention is some sort of soft option for increasing world food supplies.
This evidence further supported the view that cost reduction rather than loss reduction is the motivating force behind farmer adoption of new techniques. Overall, it was apparent that selective intervention, which recognizes regional and crop differences in loss rates and the income constraints faced by small farmers, will produce positive social benefit-cost ratios and result in risk- and effort-reducing technical change. However, it was recognized that cost-reducing technical change in storage, threshing, and milling, though of overall net benefit, sometimes has adverse income-distribution effects through labour displacement that threatens the livelihoods of poor, often female, wage labourers and village artisans. These changes reduce the share of labour in value added, and hence income, from processing; this, perversely, means that "modern" and allegedly food-saving innovations at times result in increasing hunger amongst the poorest. Planned intervention is necessary to promote alternative sustainable income-generating activities for those groups.
The potential role of farm-level storage in improving the management of national food stocks was discussed in light of the demonstrated capacity of farmers to use post-harvest methods that minimize losses and to respond to cost-effective innovations, and in recognition of the Green Revolution's deleterious effects on post-harvest efforts generally but in particular on the marketed surplus public sector operations. Consideration was given to the idea that central marketing authorities or private merchants could take out liens, paid for at harvest time, on grain stored at the farm level, which could then be called for when required. While acknowledging that this idea is not new, the participants considered that the problems of acute scarcity of stocks, procurement aversion, and the belief that farm-level losses were high had diminished to the extent that initiatives of this sort could offer a significant opportunity to improve both the total availability and distribution of food.
When the full report of this workshop is available, an announcement giving details of how it can be obtained will be made in the Food and Nutrition Bulletin.
A workshop on the Practical Implications of the Interactions between Maternal Diet during Lactation, Breast-feeding, and the Duration of Lactational Infertility was held in Cambridge, UK, 9-11 March 1981, under the sponsorship of the United Nations University, the World Health Organization, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
Considering breast-feeding as crucial to infant health, particularly in the developing world, the workshop reviewed potential nutritional and non-nutritional factors responsible for poor milk production and lactational performance under differing socio-economic circumstances. The metabolic and endocrine responses to under-nutrition during lactation were also studied, with particular emphasis being placed on prolactin. This hormone is involved both in milk production and in the contraceptive effect of lactation. Existing data on the response of mothers to dietary supplementation during pregnancy and lactation were examined as was the overall importance of maternal as well as child health programmes. The main conclusions of the workshop are summarized below.
Whilst mothers clearly have a large capacity for metabolic adaptation during pregnancy and lactation-which enables them to produce babies of normal birth weight and very respectable amounts of milk on levels of energy and nutrient intake of only 40 to 60 per cent of the recommended dietary amount-this is frequently at the expense of the health and well-being of the mother. Particularly low dietary intakes, especially when coupled with heavy manual labour, do result in a fall in the average birth weight, an increase in the proportion of babies that are small for their age, and a fall in milk production. Existing scientific information indicates that maternal dietary supplementation can reverse the low-birth-weight problem, but the low milk output is more resistant to improvement, perhaps because of the effects of additional adverse factors. A major quandary, however, is how much breast milk a mother can reasonably be expected to produce. In most industrialized countries the averge totally lactating mother produces a maximum of around 750 ml per day. Only when milk output is substantially lower than this can nutritional supplementation be expected to produce a significant effect. However, the extra food does improve the nutritional status, health, and well-being of the mother both during pregnancy and lactation, and for that reason, even if no other, a concern for maternal nutrition is essential. It was considered that a more long-term supplementation programme will be necessary before a completely beneficial effect both on milk output and maternal health is achieved, and long-term prospective longitudinal studies on this subject are urgently required in selected centres throughout the developing world.
The main stimulus for prolactin is infant suckling. The workshop concluded that an undernourished mother has greater difficulty in producing milk than a well-nourished one, and only by suckling intensively for prolonged periods does the child obtain enough milk. This enhanced suckling was the major factor causing the prolonged elevated prolactin levels seen among women of low socio-economic status in the developing world and explains why they are less likely to become pregnant again after a short time interval. A number of workers, however, have observed that lactational infertility is dependent upon the nutritional status of the mother, and it has been confirmed by direct intervention that base-line prolactin levels fall more quickly when dietary intake is improved, presumably because the mother is able to make milk more easily and thus less suckling is required. This important finding needs to be confirmed in other centres, but in the meantime health workers must be made aware that improving the health and nutritional status of mothers during lactation probably does enhance the return of their fertility. Community relevant family planning procedures need, therefore, to be identified and offered in conjunction with the rest of the maternal health package.
The broad conclusion of the workshop was that primary health centres must cater for the nutritional health of both the mother and the pre-school child. Doctors and nurses, as well as health assistants, need to be trained in the appropriate aspects of maternal and child care and not in obstetric or paediatric aspects as separate entities.
Forthcoming meetings and workshops
Hunger and Society
Nutrition Component of National Policy and Planning. 16-21 August. San Diego, Calif., USA. Conveners: Mr. Sol Chafkin, Division of National Affairs and Social Development, The Ford Foundation, 320 E. 43rd St.,New York, N.Y.10017, USA; Dr. F.T. Sai, PO Box M197, Accra, Ghana.
The interface of Agriculture, Food Science, and Nutrition. October. Hyderabad, India. Convener: Dr. C.P. Natarajan, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore 570013, India.
Hunger and Technology
The Role of Women in Post-harvest Conservation of Food. 11-14 August. Costa Rica. Conveners: Dr. Hossam Issa, The United Nations University, Toho Seimei Building, 2-15-1 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150, Japan; Dr. Maria A. Tagle, c/o UNDP Field Office, Casilla 197-D, Santiago, Chile.
Hunger and Health
Protein-Energy Requirements. 16-21 August. San Diego, Calif., USA. Conveners: Dr. Benjamin Torún, Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama ( INCAP), Carretera Roosevelt, Zona 11, Guatemala City, Guatemala; Dr. Vernon Young, Department of Nutrition and Food Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. 02139, USA.
Publications from associated institutions
The following is a selected list of publications of the Central Food Technological Research Institute, an associated institution of the United Nations University. Those interested in obtaining any of these publications should order them directly from the Head, FOSTIS, Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore 570013, India. (All prices include airmail postage. )
Food Technology Abstracts. Published monthly. Each issue contains approximately 500 abstracts/titles which are drawn from over 400 current periodicals and other documents. Annual subscription, US$60.
Food Digest. Published quarterly. Designed to meet the needs of administrators, managers, and other industrial personnel, this periodical includes information about research and development, techno-economic matters, regulatory measures, and the like. Annual subscription, US$20.
Food Patents. Published quarterly. This publication contains abstracts of food patents from all over the world. Annual subscription, US$20.
Home-scale Processing and Preservation of Fruits and
Balanced Diets and Nutritive Value of Some Common Recipes US$6.
Mango: An Industrial Profile. 1978. US$10.
Sal Fat: A Status Report. 1980. US$25.
Symposium on Proteins 1962. US$20.
Proceedings of the International Symposium on Protein Food and Concentrates. 1978. US$10.
Sorghum, Maize, and Millets-Worldover, 197-75. 1976.
Sorghum, Maize, and Millets in India, 1960-75 1976. US$25.
Storage of Food Grains in India, 1945-72. 1978. US$25.
Indian Food Patents. 1978. US$25.
Confectionery, 1974-78. 1979. US$25.
Byproducts from Food Industries: Utilization and Disposal, 1975-79.1980. US$25.
Directory of Ongoing Projects in Food Science and
Technology and Related Areas in India. 1979. US$25.
Directory of Institutional Sources in Food Science and Technology. 1980. US$25.
International course in food science and nutrition
A course in maternal and child nutrition is being organized by the Netherlands Universities Foundation for Inter" national Co-operation (NUFFIC). This is an international post-graduate course in food science and nutrition, with emphasis on the theme "Maternal and Child Nutrition: Prevention of the Main Nutritional Disorders in the Third World."
The course is designed to provide specific post graduate training to individuals responsible for or involved in the execution of policy and planning of programmes concerned with maternal and child nutrition and health-with the aim of providing them adequate knowledge to formulate, evaluate, and implement programmes directed toward this aspect of the world's present food and nutrition problems.
It will be multidisciplinary, and will include lectures and discussions, practical exercises, group research projects, individual presentations, and scientific excursions.
Requirements for admission:
1. Academic degree (B.Sc. as a minimum), or its equivalent, in
nutrition, food technology, home economics, medicine, or a
related field of study.
2. A professional position which is related to the theme of the course and through which dissemination of the acquired knowledge is possible and can be expected.
3. Some years of practical experience related to the theme of the course.
4. Interest in the problem of nutrition and health of pregnant and lactating women and of pre school children.
5. Fluency in the English language.
Course period: January-June 1982.
Place: Wageningen, Netherlands.
Language: The course will be conducted in English.
Fellowships: The Netherlands Government has fellowship programmes. The diplomatic representative of the Netherlands in your country can give you more information.
Application: For further information about the course programme and for application forms, contact the Netherlands Embassy in your country, or write to the course secretary at the address below. The closing date for application is 15 September 1981.
Address: International Course in Food Science and
Lawickse Allee 11
6701 AN Wageningen
Tel.: 08370- 19040
New director for the Tropical Products Institute
Dr. Malcolm Thain has been selected to succeed Dr. Philip Spensley as Director of the Tropical Products Institute (TPI), a scientific unit of the UK Overseas Development Administration and an associated institution of the United Nations University. Dr. Spensley, who retired in May, has been Director of the Institute since 1966. Dr. Thain became a Deputy Director in January 1970, since when he has had overall responsibility for the Institute's work on grain. In 1977 he was appointed Resident Co-ordinator of the UN University's activities in the Institute.
Hunger and Society: Invitation for Research Proposals
The UNU-WHP sub-programme on "Hunger and Society" has as its objective: To uncover the relationships between hunger as a poverty syndrome and societies as characterized by their specific economy, technology, ideology and politics, and to initiate or promote the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and actions to eliminate hunger.
Under this objective the following six project areas have been given priority.
1. Studies on the Basic Causes of Hunger in Societies. Only exceptionally are the basic causes of hunger analysed or studied. The contemporary "schools of thought" should be challenged to develop analyses and theories that can be tested. Projects in this area will seek to identify basic concepts of the origins of hunger implicit in contemporary "schools of thought" and theories on the relationships between hunger as a poverty syndrome and societies as characterized by their specific economy, technology, ideology, and politics.
2. Hunger and the Economic Structure of Society. The studies of the structural relationships between hunger and social class should go beyond the present studies on nutritional effects of income. Feudalism, capitalism, and socialism and their mixture in the real world should be studied both theoretically and in practice to determine the concrete mechanisms that create and maintain hunger in different countries.
3. Role of Government Policies in Peasants' Food. Production In many countries the government is monopolizing or distorting the agricultural market. The design and management of incentives to peasants to produce more is a crucial issue. Both theoretical studies and concrete analysis of the role of governments in food production, conservation, distribution, and consumption are important.
4. Development and Testing of Methodologies for Evaluation of Food and Nutrition Effects of Development Projects. There is a lack of feasible and valid evaluation methodologies for food and nutrition effects of development projects. Many attempts are now under way but most of them do not reflect the set of basic socio-economic and political causes of hunger. Projects in this area will seek to work out and apply appropriate methodologies for the evaluation of the effects of development programmes on the situation of hunger, taking into consideration the basic causes of hunger.
5. Food as a Human Right Hunger is probably one of the most easily observable indicators of deprivation of human rights. Projects in this area are intended to contribute to the design and development of an international economic order in which food for all is treated as a fundamental human right and priority.
6. Implementation of UN and Other Resolutions and Recommendations for Alleviating Hunger. A large number of resolutions and recommendations on necessary actions to alleviate hunger are produced by UN bodies, conferences, and workshops. Similarly, in many workshops, recommendations are given to the scientific community or other groups. There is very little conveniently available information as to what extent the UN agencies, governments, universities and research institutes, and relevant professional groups are implementing or trying to implement the recommendations. Projects in this area will seek to analyse the gap between such recommendations and their actual implementation and suggest strategies for reducing this gap.
Research proposals addressing any aspect of these issues and relating to individual countries or groups of countries are invited from qualified persons in developing countries. The proposals, which should be informal in nature and of one or two pages, should be submitted to the UNU World Hunger Programme. They will form the basis for fur" their correspondence and possibly formal proposals.
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