FAO supports Njala University to offer food and nutrition security courses

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December 13, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai

With technical support from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Njala University would start offering 12 modules in Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) and the Right to Food (RTF) at the beginning of the new academic year, January, 2017.

During a validation workshop held last Thursday at the Faculty Building, Makonde campus,Njala  University,Dr. Philip John Kanu, FAO’s National Coordinator of Mainstreaming Food and Nutrition Security and the Right to Food Project, said they introduced the project to the University’s  curriculum based on the call of the institution that most of their graduates have some gaps in that area.

“Why right to food because we want to address the issue of food and nutrition security using the human rights-based approach- which is to involve everybody within the community. Food and nutrition security is a multi-faceted aspect that involves everybody,” he said.

He noted that FAO has supported the institution since they started developing the modules in 2013.

He said they would not only stop at the validation point because Njala University has a strategic plan to ensure that the curriculum continues.

He disclosed that the teaching of the curriculum would commence during the next academic year, wherein all students reading agriculture in the School of Agriculture, would offer all the modules.

Dr. Kanu said the 12 modules would be offered by students in the Departments of Education, Health, and those in the Social Sciences, adding that it would be a compulsory course for all students in the School of Agriculture.

 “We have partnered with the Njala University and an institution in Germany, so that when the project ends, the one in Germany would continue to monitor the implementation of the course. Food and nutrition security is something that we really need in this country,” he said.

Dr. James Koroma, Njala University’s Dean of the School of Agriculture, said stakeholders including heads of the teachers’ training colleges, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST), FAO and senior lecturers of Njala University came together to validate the curriculum they  developed.

 “We brought the officials together because the students we are producing will end up in their institutions. With their contributions, we will be able to know what the job market wants. It’s a first year program for all the students doing Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and it would be taught in all the departments in the School of Agriculture. Also, the School of Natural Resources Management, School of Health, among others, would offer the modules. Out of the eight Schools at Njala University, four would have to offer them,” he said.

He disclosed that FAO had supported the training of 25 lecturers at the School of Agriculture on how to handle the 12 modules.

Dr. Koroma said the expected outcome was that they were hoping to produce better students that would be well grounded in the areas of nutrition and various types of foodstuff.

“Some people in Sierra Leone are not aware of the various foods to eat, when they are pregnant, young or old. People should know about nutrition in the lifecycle. There are some sicknesses that affect us because of poor nutrition,” he said.

He disclosed that they have acquired and developed 10 acres of land that would be used to do practical so that students would not only do theory, adding that they already have over 500 students, who would offer course.

Rev. Dr. Edwin Momoh, former Dean of the School of Agriculture, said FAO has been helping them train students in various disciplines, noting that they were expecting students to make a change in the communities, where they would find themselves after they graduate.

He said they were also expecting challenges in the delivering of lectures because the modules were new.

Dr. Tamba Steven Sonda, Director of the Institute of Food Technology, Nutrition and Consumer Studies, said the modules were relevant to the current situation in Sierra Leone because the government was laying more emphasis on achieving food and nutrition security.

He disclosed that they have put a lot of preparations in place to handle them.

“One of the modules that I’m really interested in is the one talking about gender, nutrition and food security. We will not get food and nutrition security on imported items. The commitment in achieving this has to start with the government. The government has to invest in the Institute of Food Technology, Nutrition and Consumer Studies,” he said.

He disclosed that many students have already expressed interest in the course, and that some of the modules include basic concepts on food and nutrition security and the rights to food, nutrition through the life cycle, gender and development, determinants of food and nutrition security-utilization, health and WASH, assessing food and nutrition security, dietary intake, macronutrients, nutrition interventions, strategies and policies, understanding the right to adequate food.