The University of Ghana, Legon, in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, is leading a groundbreaking research initiative called NUTRISHED.
This project aims to understand how the transportation of food into urban areas affects nutrition and how city authorities can use this information to enhance food and nutrition security in their various assemblies.
The study focuses on Takoradi in the Western Region and Asesewa in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
It involves partnerships with the health, education, and agriculture departments of these local governance assemblies.
While local authorities often prioritize revenue generation and infrastructure, NUTRISHED aims to involve them in devising strategies to improve food and nutrition security, thereby fostering socio-economic development.
Professor Richmond Aryeetey, from the University of Ghana's School of Public Health and a key research team member, highlighted specific food products central to the project.
These include meat, beans, leafy greens, vegetables, citrus fruits, and milk and milk products, which despite their nutritional value, are not widely consumed as expected.
The project seeks to trace the production, distribution, and consumption patterns of these essential food items.
According to Professor Aryeetey, baseline studies have revealed that around 20% of children aged 1 to 5 in Ghana suffer from malnutrition due to insufficient micronutrients in their diets.
Mothers also lack these nutrients, impacting their ability to adequately provide for themselves and their children.
Regarding data collection, the team plans to collaborate with law enforcement at strategic points along highways to monitor cargo trucks transporting food items into the cities.
This monitoring aims to identify the sources, quantities, and origins of these food products.
Moreover, the research involves engaging market leaders, farmers, and traders through surveys to gather information on food sources, pricing, and strategies to enhance affordability and accessibility.
Understanding the destinations of these food items, their processing, and preparation methods will be mapped out comprehensively.
Professor Aryeetey emphasized the importance of cooperation from the general public, especially market women when approached for information.
He expressed hope that the successful outcomes of this project could serve as a model for implementation in other areas beyond the initial study locations.