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PSI Co-organizes a Workshop on Catalysing Change for Healthy and Sustainable Food System in Ethiopia

In collaboration with the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) and School of Public Health of the Addis Ababa University (AAU), Policy Studies Institute (PSI)  organized a workshop and presented key preliminary findings of the studies undertaken under the Catalysing Change for Healthy and Sustainable Food System initiative on the 16th and 17th of November 2023 at Jupiter International Hotel in Addis Ababa.

This two days’ workshop featured scientific studies of two major projects under the Catalysing Change for Healthy and Sustainable Food System initiative co-funded by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) and Rockefeller Foundation. The two core projects involve Leveraging Systems Approach for Healthier and Sustainable Diet Policy (LSAHSDP) in Ethiopia, conducted by PSI in collaboration with EPHI, McGill University, Canada, and Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and Urban Agriculture for Advancing Healthy and Sustainable Food Systems (UAAHSFS) in Addis Ababa, undertaken by School of Public Health at AAU.

The workshop started with opening remarks by Professor Beyene Petros, Director General of PSI. In his remarks, Professor Beyene underscores the significant progress Ethiopia has made relating to nutrition. According to Professor Beyene, nutrition is one of the priority areas in the Ten Years Perspective Plan of the government as it is one of the essential components to build a prosperous nation. He adds that the promotion of healthier diets is at the center of the government’s initiatives with the general objectives of addressing the problems of under-nutrition, micro-nutrient deficiencies, and emerging diet-related non communicable diseases (NCDs).

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 Professor Beyene Petros, Director General of PSI, giving opening remarks

In his remarks, Professor Beyene capitalizes that as the problem is complex in nature, and cannot be addressed solely by the government, a concerted effort from many stakeholders and the general public is very much needed. That is why, Professor Beyene adds, the adoption of a sustainable food system approach is found to be vital and attention is geared towards it. He reiterates that the effective implementation of government’s efforts requires the cooperation of many actors in the overall food system including food producers and processors, storage and transportation operators, traders and the consumers themselves. This workshop on Catalysing Change for Healthy and Sustainable Food System in Ethiopia is of direct bearing to such a concern and will be of immense contribution to informing policy, Professor Beyene states.

In this event,  keynote addresses were given by Dr. Melkamu Abete, Deputy Director General, EPHI; Mrs. Ashley Mulroney, Minister-Counselor and Senior Director for Development, Canada Embassy in Ethiopia; and Madiha Ahmed, IDRC Representative.  One thing shared by these high level officials is that as Ethiopia has been grappling with problems relating to food security, malnutrition and unhealthy diet driven NCDs, among others, the catalyzing Change for Healthy and Sustainable Food System initiative is of invaluable contribution to leveraging the government’s food systems transformation endeavor.

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Dr. Melkamu Abete, Dupity Director, EPHI giving keynote address

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Ashley Mulroney, Minister-Counselor and Senior Director for Development, Canada Embassy in Ethiopia

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Madiha Ahmed, IDRC Representative

The scientific presentations began with overviews given on the two core projects: LSAHSDP in Ethiopia and UAAHSFS in Addis Ababa. Dr. Alebel Bayrau, Lead Researcher at PSI and Principal Investigator in the Project described the LSAHSDP in Ethiopia Project. He said that the project aimed to: analyze the degree to which the food system in Ethiopia is supporting the delivery of Healthy Food, particularly to low income and vulnerable people; map the structure and dynamics of the food system in Ethiopia, which influences the availability, accessibility and affordability of healthy foods; and inform policy action that improves access to affordable healthy food sustainably, considering gender equity. To such an end, the project followed a three stage approach which comprises: understand, identify and inform. The first phase involved understanding the existing characteristics of the Ethiopian food system with a focus on: understanding the dietary pattern and gaps; understanding the consumption pattern; analyzing the existing policy environment: policy, fiscal, regulatory & other interventions; and data mapping on healthy diet indicators in Ethiopia. The second phase, based on the two rounds of surveys, involved identifying the drivers and key components of the food system and their influence on the affordability of Healthy food. To this end, institutional analysis on the role and interaction of actors; assessment of such sub systems as food production, transportation and supply chain of food products as well as market availability and structure were focused on. The third phase focuses on informing public policy.

Dr. Alebel also highlighted key findings of the project. The findings indicate that the food system in Ethiopia is hard pressed to deliver an affordable healthy diet in Ethiopia. While the underlying causes are yet to be identified, the study reveals unavailability of food items, inefficiency in the market and transportation system, problems relating to consumption behavior of households, and policy and institutional gaps relating to supply and demand sides as immediate causes for the problem of the food system to deliver an affordable healthy diet, particularly for low income and vulnerable people including women and children.

Dr AlebelDr. Alebel Bayrau, Principal Investigator of LSAHSDP & Lead Researcher at PSI

While Dr Alebel provides an overview of the project, papers under the LSAHSDP in Ethiopia were further presented in detail by the project’s research members. These include: Dietary Quality among Women of Reproductive Age, Children and Adolescent Girls by Dawit Alemayehu, Researcher at EPHI; Patterns of Food Consumption and Nutrition in Ethiopia and Food Production and Healthy Diet Consumption in Ethiopia by Dr. Jemal Mohammed Adem, Senior Researcher at PSI; The Influence of Transportation and Supply Chain of food products on Food Affordability in Ethiopia by Dr. Desalegn Anshiso, Senior Researcher at PSI; Market Availability and Structure of Healthy Food and its Influence on Affordability in Ethiopia by Hana Woldekidan, Researcher at PSI; and Institutional Analysis of Food System In Ethiopia by Dr Berhanu Alemu, Senior Researcher at PSI. In their presentations, these researchers pointed out the challenges in the food systems related to their topics of coverage.

The second project under the Catalysing Change for Healthy and Sustainable Food System in Ethiopia initiative, UAAHSFS in Addis Ababa, was presented by Dr.  Samson Gebremedhin, Associate Professor in School of Public Health at AAU. Dr. Samson provided a brief account of the project as well as urban agriculture and its contribution for advancing healthy food systems in Ethiopia. According to Dr. Sammson, the UAAHSFS project aimed to uncover policy level blockades; identify barriers and enablers; and assess feasibility and pilot urban agriculture in Addis Ababa. In his presentations, he highlighted both strengths and gaps observed at policy level. Other papers under this project were also presented by team members in this workshop.

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Dr.  Samson Gebremedhin, Associate Professor in School of Public Health at AAU and UAAHSFS project Leader

Before the presentations of research reports based on the two umbrella projects, in this workshop, reports that aimed at providing insights into national level initiatives and developments concerning food systems in Ethiopia were presented. These comprise: The Ethiopian food systems transformation roadmap and implementation status by Dr. Getachew Diriba, Senior Advisor, Ethiopian Food Systems Transformation, Office of the Minister, Ministry of Agriculture; Seqota Declaration: Government of Ethiopia Commitment to end stunting in children under 2 years of age by 2030 – achievement and lessons by Mr. Abera, Expert in Nutrition Department, Ministry of Health; and Monitoring and evaluation framework to transform the Ethiopian food systems  by Dr. Getachew Legesse, a researcher at ILRI.  

During this workshop, the paper presentations were followed by reflections as well as questions and comments from participants. The workshop was attended by government officials, policy makers, and key experts from think tanks, research institutes and academia.

Dr Jemal

Workshop participants partially

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