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Scientific Meeting
Advanced Training Course on Food and Nutrition Planning and Management for Community Development


Scientific Meeting

The Interfaces between Agriculture, Food Science, and Human Nutrition in the Middle East: A workshop sponsored by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the United Nations University in Aleppo, Syria, 21-25 February 1982.

ICARDA is one of the newest of the International Agricultural Research Centres (IARCs) and is based in Aleppo, Syria. These IARCs are now banded together under the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR). CGIAR itself was founded in 1971, but its origin goes back to the 1940s with the foundation, in Mexico, of the Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Ma-z y Trigo (CIMMYT) sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican Government

The IARCs have had an impressive record in increasing food production in the Third World and are now broadening their concerns to address the social and ecological issues raised by the introduction of high-yielding varieties into fertile Third World land. ICARDA, being new, has had the opportunity to involve itself in these social and ecological issues to a greater degree than some of the other older centres, and this workshop was planned to examine the implications for food science and human nutrition of the agricultural research on new high-yielding varieties being implemented at ICARDA.

The purpose of ICARDA is to examine the potential for boosting food production in dry, sub-tropical and sub-temperate areas, particularly in North Africa and West Asia. ICARDA scientists are developing new strains of bread wheat, durum wheat, barley, triticale, lentils, chicks pea, broad beans, and forage plants. The purpose of the workshop was to identify economic development problems, particularly in the rural areas, in comparison with other developing regions and to survey the status and effectiveness of efforts of researchers and development agencies to find solutions to these problems. It is increasingly recognized by researchers involved in economic development that these problems are complex and the solutions are also complex. Efforts to find solutions require multidisciplinary teams; but it is no easy to get them together to operate effectively.

It was felt that the first step in organizing multidisciplinary research was to create an effective means of communication. A workshop was therefore planned to foster a dialogue within a multidisciplinary group. While sponsored by ICARDA and the United Nations University, the workshop could not have been held without the cooperation of the University of Aleppo, which provided facilities for the meeting. The workshop consisted of six half-day sessions followed by a seventh to formulate recommendations. In order to encourage interdisciplinary communication, the time allotted to discussion was equal to the time given to the speakers. Thus, each session consisted of the presentations of two prepared papers followed by open discussion. Because large meetings often inhibit discussion, the number of participants was limited to a maximum of 50. These were concerned scientists from many disciplines, currently working in the Near East region, or having had previous experience in that region, together With selected scientific staff from ICARDA itself and the United Nations University.

The first session, entitled "Malnutrition and Hunger", presented two papers, the first on global perspectives of hunger and malnutrition (P.L. Pellett), and the second on problems in assessment of nutritional needs (N.S. Scrimshaw). These two papers attempted to delineate, for the sake of agricultural and economic specialists, the multifactorial causation of malnutrition and the scientific difficulty in assessing nutritional requirements.

The second session on "Food Policy and Agricultural Development" also presented two papers, the first on food policy and nutrition by Per Pinstrup-Andersen from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), another of the new lARCs. He emphasized that the nutritional status of an individual is affected by (i) the amount and kinds of food available in the market or on the farm at a given time and place, (ii) the ability of individual household members to obtain available food, (ii;) the desire of the head of the household to obtain food to which he/she has access, (iv) allocation of the acquired food among household members, and (v) physiological utilization of the food ingested by the malnourished individual. Malnutrition may be the result of deficiencies in any one or more of these five factors and all are interrelated. Changes in one may be ineffective unless others are changed simultaneously. This paper also centred on the complex causation of malnutrition.

The next paper by Paul Lunven from the Food Policy and Nutrition Division of FAO in Rome discussed the nutritional consequences of agricultural and rural development projects. The paper gave details from case studies of six rural projects and analysed the failure of projects to provide nutrition benefits and gave recommendations to ensure that future development efforts live up to their potential to improve nutrition. Considerable discussion was generated in this session, and H.A.B. Parpia, from his own experience with FAO, argued that It is extremely difficult to assign success or failure to projects because some direct criteria may not show improvement, while there may be many indirect benefits.

The next session turned more directly to discussion of food production and nutrition in the Middle East. The Director General of ICARDA, Mohammed Nour, presented a paper on perspectives for food production in the Middle East and North Africa, followed by consideration of the food and nutrition situation in the area by Samir Miladi; from The United Nations University. In the discussion, John Gerhart from the Ford Foundation in Cairo emphasized the extreme importance labour migration now has for the Middle East, and its implications not only for the gender of the labour force, but for overall decision-making processes within both farm and household.

The next session, in which genetic improvement and nutrition were discussed, was more directly the concern of the plant breeder. First, Ricardo Bressani from the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP) presented a paper on nutritional goals for the plant breeder. This was followed by two shorter papers from the ICARDA staff on current work on the genetic improvement of legumes and cereals. Bressani emphasized that what we have come to express as productivity is, in fact, made up of three major components: yield, post-harvest technology, and nutrition. He emphasized that, while total yield is of great importance, unless the products are acceptable in general terms (colour, texture, cooking qualities, etc.) as well as in nutritional quality, improved total yield may well be negated. The discussion emphasized that the highest priority for plant breeders should be to increase the availability of food through improving productivity of staple food crops without decreasing nutrient levels. However, stable, high-yielding cultivars will only be accepted by farmers if they have acceptable quality characteristics, and further research Is needed in order to determine accurately consumer preferences throughout the region and to develop appropriate testing procedures for doing so. The importance of post-harvest technology was recognized throughout the session, but some discussion was deferred because a whole later session was to be devoted to this topic.

For the next session, entitled "Food Production versus Nutrition", Kutlu Somel, an economist from ICARDA, in speaking on "The Green Revolution: Achievements and Implications", Suggested that the term "Green Evolution" 7s more appropriate. A more accurate view of it would be the part of the continuing evolution of more intesive systems of agricultural production based on advances in biological and chemical technology. The author looked at four issues around which the stormier controversies have ocurred: (I) ecological impact of the green revolution, (II) its effects on employment and mechanization, (III) effects on income distribution, and (IV) the nutritional impacts.

Philip Williams of the Canadian Grain Commission, who works part-time at ICARDA on Regional Research on Cereals sod Nutrition, emphasized that ICARDA has learned from some of the earlier errors in other centres, and part of its laboratory activities now are concerned with acceptability and nutritional criteria. Not only must a new variety show improved yield and agronomic characteristics; it must also, for example, if a bread wheat, make good bread, and chickpeas must make good hommos (dip).

It was emphasized that ICARDA was really fortunate to come in as a later-generation International Centre. Certainly ICARDA's emphasis on farming systems, farm trials, food legumes, local grain uses, cooking quality, and taste panels is totally different from the activities of an international agricultural centre of the early 1960s. Because of this newer emphasis, ICARDA should be able to avoid problems that occurred earlier, such as unacceptability of JR-8 rice because of poor cooking quality and taste, or the rejection of opaque-2 maize because of its poor storing qualities after large scale introduction in Colombia.

The sixth and final session of papers and discussion was on "Post-Harvest Processing and Problems." This consisted of papers on the reduction of post-harvest food losses by H.A.B. Parpia, now at the United Nations University, but formerly of FAO, followed by discussion of regional research on legume processing and its effect on nutrition by Raja Tannous of the American University of Beirut. Parpia has long been concerned with the reduction of post-harvest losses in food crops. His paper was replete with examples of losses and of local technology solutions to many of the problems, and clearly demonstrated the large number of benefits that can follow the development of a post-harvest system based on sound techno-economic foundation in the developing countries. Some of these benefits are: increasing and improving food supplies without additional demand on land; raising nutritional quality of food and consequent improvement in nutritional levels, especially of the low-income population; raising employment in the conservation and processing industries; stabilizing prices, thus providing food to the consumer at a reasonable price; ensuring more efficient use of food residues for the manufacture of by-products; the use of food and feed; funding that increases foreign exchange earnings and improves the balance of trade.

The discussion recognized the importance of post-harvest technology in the prevention of food loss, but acknowledged that it is extremely difficult to assess post-harvest losses, and methodologies should be devised to determine the nature and extent of post-harvest loss, specifically reflecting variations by geographical region, by crops, by different growth stages, and by differing post-harvest processes. Such assessment should consider the relative merits of traditional technologies, and discern whether recommended new technologies are safe, inexpensive, use locally available materials, and are appropriate to the needs of all levels of farmers and other interested sections of society. It was further emphasized that assessment of technology should focus on the roles of women in post-harvest processing, particularly at the household level, and that indepth studies should clarify women's roles in the post-harvest process and suggest how tasks could be improved, not only to save women's time, but to improve the quality of the food processed within the household.

The final evening was devoted to five working dinners organized so that recommendations could be drafted for discussion by the whole group at the final morning session. Their responsibilities were to define: (I) priorities in nutrition research; (II) nutrition priorities in agricultural projects; (III) nutrition priorities in plant breeding; (IV) research priorities in post-harvest and food processing problems, and (V) priorities in agricultural research. They were truly working dinners, with some groups still disagreeing on priorities into the early hours of the morning. There was a general consensus among participants that several of the aims, such as those to improve communication by bringing together scientists to discuss problems, and sharing successful research strategies and proposals on ways and means to foster co-operation, had largely been met. Cross-disciplinary communication does not always occur even when the opportunity arises. In this instance, a surprisingly good environment existed in which deas from scientists of different specializations were discussed.

A monograph is being prepared to contain the factual material from the formal papers and capture the essence of the discussions. The proceedings will follow the same order as the work shop. Opening comments of the discussion leader and a transcript of the discussion following each paper will be included. Throughout the discussion, rapporteurs kept a written record of all interventions, and speakers were encouraged to provide brief versions of their questions or answers.

In a recent review, Agriculture/ Research and Third World Food Production, by D.L. Plunkett and N J.H. Smith, the authors conclude that " . . . agricultural research alone is not a panacea for the food problems of the developing world. Social, economic and ecological issues must also be tackled. However, the new crop varieties and agricultural practices developed by strengthened national programs working in tandem with the lARCs will buy time." This workshop recognized the importance of social, economic, and ecological issues and served as a cross-disciplinary forum for discussion of the interrelationships between agriculture, food science, and nutrition.


Advanced Training Course on Food and Nutrition Planning and Management for Community Development

The United Nations University and the Nutrition Center of the Philippines announce the opening of the Seventh Advanced Training Course on Food and Nutrition Planning and Management for Community Development starting July 5, 1983. This non-degree programme of six months duration is designed to provide didactic and practical knowledge to fellows in developing food and nutrition programmes within the context of community development. After the academic sessions at the Nutrition Center of the Philippines, fellows will be given first-hand experience in planning and managing of programmes at the village level, and an opportunity to conduct operational or evaluative research in selected areas.

A limited number of fellowships is available from the United Nations University to candidates from developing countries to cover air fare, stipends, and training fees. Candidates may also obtain funding from international or other donor institutions, or from their own government for their training fee of US$4,800 as well as their air fare and stipends, following UNDP rates.

Interested parties may contact Dr. Nevin Scrimshaw, Director, UNU Programme on Food, Nutrition, and Poverty, MIT 20-A-201, Cambridge, Mass. 02139, USA, or Dr. Rodolfo Florentino, Deputy Director, Nutrition Center of the Philippines, P. O. Box 653, Makati Commercial Center, Makati, Metro Manila, Philippines, for details.

International Union of Nutrition Sciences (IUNS)
XIII International Congress of Nutrition -
Brighton 1985

The Royal Society, through its British National Committee for Nutritional Sciences, has deputed the Nutrition Society to organise the XIII International Congress of Nutrition. In March this year the Council of the Nutrition Society appointed an Executive Committee to be responsible for the organization. Its members are Dr. D. J. Naismith (Chairman) Dr. D. H. Shrimpton (Treasurer), Professor A. E. Bender, Dr. D. H. Buss and Dr. M. E. Coates (representing the Nutrition Society), Professor T. G. Taylor (Publications), Dr. M. I. Gurr (Programmes), Professor J. A. Waterlow (representing the Royal Society).

The Congress will be held from 18th-25th August, 1985 in the Brighton Conference Centre and at the University of Sussex, four miles outside the town. Professional organisers will handle the loudness of registration, hotel accommodation, etc., but the administration of the scientific programme will be solely the responsibility of the Programmes Committee.

The Congress theme will accent the scientific basis of nutrition. It will highlight current research of major significance, presenting up to-date results in fields of topical interest. There will be an appropriate balance between human and animal nutrition. Human nutrition will cover both clinical and non-clinical aspects. Animal nutrition will not be concerned with matters of production that are adequately covered by other societies but will embrace metabolic and biochemical aspects likely to be of general interest to a wide audience. It was considered advisable to concentrate on certain broad areas of interest, and active workers in those areas have been invited to be responsible for the main scientific programmer within their subject area The Committee members are Dr. M. L. Gurr (Chairman), Professor J. A. Waterlow, Dr. D. A. T. Southgate, Dr. D. Richardson, Dr. P. J. Buttery, Dr. W. M. F. Lest, Dr. M. Eastwood, Dr. J. D. Baird, Dr. D. Thurnam, Dr. J. M. L. Stephen (Secretary). These mill be aided by subcommittees drawn from the Society's membership.

Discussions and planning sessions concerning the organization of the Congress and its scientific programme are already in progress, and the members of both committees would be grateful to receive ideas and suggestions as soon as possible.

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