Saskatchewan researchers examine ways to end malnutrition in Ethiopia
Pulse crops might be the answer
Saskatchewan researchers hope to use lessons learned by Saskatchewan farmers to help end malnutrition in Ethiopia.
The University of Saskatchewan is partnering with the Mekelle University in Ethiopia to find a food product to solve chronic malnutrition in the African country.
Lisa Clark is a research associate with the College of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan. She's just recently back from Ethiopia where they made some first steps in tackling this problem.
"We met colleagues in nutrition and agriculture economics and they told us the situation in Ethiopia, what farming is like, what some of the challenges they have getting micronutrients to rural people, specifically rural children and rural families," said Clark.
Researchers found Ethiopians consume a lot of cereal crops, like wheat and corn, but these crops do not have enough nutrients, including high levels of protein.
"We are trying to work towards getting a product that helps meet micronutrient deficiencies by using pulses, which is very relevant to Saskatchewan," said Clark.
While many of us associate Ethiopia with the famine that existed there for so long, Clark said things have changed much for the country in the years since then.
"Ethiopia is a rapidly developing country right now. It's one of the economic leaders in Africa so there is a lot of uneven development, a lot of construction, roads being paved, everyone has a cell phone but other resources like diesel is expensive."
She also said transportation is not so great. According to Clark, one of the team's goals is "to address these micronutrient deficiency problems in the midst of all of this change and also contribute to the socio-economic development in Ethiopia."
And while she said lessons learned here in Saskatchewan will be helpful in this research, the life of Ethiopian farmers is very different from our agricultural industry.
We are trying to work towards getting a product that helps meet micronutrient deficiencies by using pulses, which is very relevant to Saskatchewan.- Lisa Clark
"The challenges that Ethiopian farmers face is a lot different than what we face. Ninety per cent of the Ethiopian population are small rural farmers and many of them are growing for subsistence," she said.
"Whereas in Saskatchewan the scale of production is much greater and we export a lot of our cereals and pulses to the rest of the world."
Nonetheless, the team made good progress in this first phase and as they move forward with it, education is a key component.
"There are micronutrient dense foods in Ethiopia and people eat them but they don't eat enough of them so we need to figure out how to strengthen marketing channels to make sure...people are eating more of these foods," Clark said.