Accra has been selected as a starting case, as Ghana is one of the African frontrunners in the field of food environments research and policy development. In Ghana over 40% of current adult deaths are attributable to nutrition-related non-communicable diseases. Netherlands Food Partnership plays a role in identifying relevant partners and cooperation opportunities and facilitating connections, multi-sectoral exchanges, framework and action plan development and co-creation for mutually complementary actions to improve these Ghanaian urban food environments.
Transformative potential of reasoning from consumer perspectives within a system approach
Food environments are seen as the range of dimensions that can enable or restrict healthy dietary choices by providing opportunities or constraints that influence people's decisions about what to eat. These dimensions include food availability, prices, accessibility, affordability, desirability, convenience, marketing and regulation, vendor & product properties and urban infrastructure. Healthy dietary choices could make significant differences in African countries, in particular cities, where problems of undernutrition persist and where the prevalence of obesity and nutrition-related non-communicable diseases is rising. These choices have not only the potential to save lives, but also allow the health costs associated with unhealthy diets (estimated to reach US$ 1.3 trillion a year in 2030) to be almost entirely offset.
It is becoming increasingly clear that healthy diets are essential to reaching climate and environmental goals. Yet, the reasons why food environments prevent people from consuming healthy diets are multiple and cut across issues and sectors both directly and indirectly related to food value chains. While interventions have mainly focused on production, food availability does not immediately lead to (healthier) purchase and consumption. Consumers’ consumption choices are in fact determined by several infrastructural deficiencies at a broader city/region scale beyond household level.
Solutions thus lie with a sustainable transformation of food systems, including interventions along the entire food supply chain, in the political economy that shapes the larger context of trade, public expenditure and investment policies, and definitely in the food environment. In order to address these challenges, it has become clear that for healthier African food environments, seeing their system nature, it is required that public-private engagement and multi-stakeholder dialogues and activities achieve significant progress.