In partnership with other leading organisations, the Quadram Institute has organised a workshop to help researchers from across Africa exploit food composition data, improving local nutrition policies and public health advice.

The workshop, which is being hosted by the new confirmed African Research University Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Food Security at the University of Pretoria, is bringing together scientists, nutritionists and policy-makers from 11 African countries to share best practice in generating reliable, standardised data on the composition of foods, and set up networks to share data online.

These data, and the tools to access and exploit it, underpin the development and implementation of local food and nutrition policies, regulatory measures, labelling and health advice.

The Quadram Institute (UK), Wageningen University (NL), the University of Pretoria (ZA) and EuroFIR AISBL (BE) are contributing to this event, which was funded through the Research Councils United Kingdom (RCUK) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF); this aims to ensure that UK research takes a leading role in addressing the problems faced by developing countries.

Over the course of the five-day workshop, participants will receive expert training in designing sampling protocols, calculating nutrient values, assessing data quality, and using appropriate tools for data compilation, management and data sharing.

Through working closely with regional networks, including the FAO International Network of Food Data Systems’ AFROFOODS network, outcomes from the workshop will benefit not just the participants, but also the wider community of public health researchers who rely on these data. These networks will also provide a conduit for further future training and capacity building, by hosting online information resources and e-learning, and facilitating scientist exchanges.

“We hope that this workshop will help to build local capacity in food composition data management, that will benefit countries across Africa” said Paul Finglas, head of the Quadram Institute Food Databanks National Capability and Managing Director of EuroFIR. “By giving researchers the knowledge and tools to generate data that matches shared standards, we can get more up-to-date data online and searchable so that it can provide a sound basis for nutrition and public health advice.”

According to the 2017 Global Nutrition Report, nutrition programmes has a $16 return of investment. “Towards attaining the 169 Targets of the 17 Global Goals Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by each of our governments” stated Hettie Schönfeldt, director of the new ARUA CoE for Food Security led by the University of Pretoria, South Africa in collaboration with the University of Ghana, Legon and the University of Nairobi ”targeted approaches to facilitate agricultural and food system transformation are as essential as partnerships in research and innovation in order to attain sustainable food security and nutrition in Future Africa and elsewhere”.