The need for an online collection of traditional african food habits
Amongst the difficulties facing the indigenous people of Africa today is the deleterious shift from traditional food habits to the processed and packaged food products of western-owned corporations. This nutrition transition has been implicated in the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) throughout Africa. The purpose of the present investigation was to determine whether there is a current need to document traditional African food habits via an online collection in an attempt to stimulate further research in this area and potentially improve the health status of indigenous Africans threatened by the nutrition transition. A systematic search was performed to assess possible gaps in online collections focused on traditional African food habits. A questionnaire was administered to opinion leaders in the nutritional sciences at the 18th International Congress of Nutrition (ICN) in Durban, South Africa, September 2005, to determine the level of awareness of the importance of traditional African food habits within the context of the nutrition transition, and to determine the support among this cohort for an online collection of traditional African food habits. Our systematic review resulted in nine collections being identified. None of these collections were specifically designed to raise awareness of traditional African food habits however. Findings from the survey revealed that 86% of our cohort agreed that Africa is currently undergoing a nutrition transition. Nearly 80% believed that knowledge of traditional African food habits is being lost. Indigenous African interviewees noted reduced consumption of sorghum and millet and an increased consumption of wheat and rice within their region of origin. Approximately 82% believed that there was currently a gap in online collections focused on presenting information on traditional African food habits. Ninety-two percent of the cohort indicated their preparedness to make use of a novel, online collection of data on traditional African food habits. The findings revealed a critical need to collate and present data on traditional African food habits via a novel, online collection that could be used to stimulate education and research of food habits and their health implications, to provide a well-rounded forum in which such information is presented and shared.
Key words: Africa, traditional foods, wild species, dietary practices, information networks and database.