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Foreword [Volume 18 No. 1 (2018)]

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition! Many people still do not understand it, many would like to use it to improve their health standing and many more want to include it in their treatment regimens for various disease conditions including cancer and diabetes. Yet, we do not have enough professionals in this field and all because it was never thought of seriously. The question remains: Is there a strong association between what we eat and cancer? The data out there are not decisive enough to convince masses of people to change their diets. When the headlines come out regarding foods that are believed to be associated with cancer and which we need to keep away from, people make jokes about it, or avoid such foods for a few days, while some have seriously and religiously adjusted their diets to what they believe to be healthier foods. People out there are trying all kinds of diets, and I am beginning to wonder whether this is out of desperation, or due to some proven scientific basis. What is clear is that cancer for sure has become an epidemic here in Kenya. It seems to have no sympathy for anyone: young, old, those living in rural areas seem to be as much at risk as those living in urban areas. So far there is general belief that too much refined salt, refined sugar and saturated fats do not augur well for good health. How about for the environment? There are many plant sources of polyunsaturated fats which are good for both human health and for the environment. There is also right now serious effort to research into alternative sources of protein, such as insects. Insects have been consumed by Africans for a long time. Could such protein also hold the answer to prevention of non-communicable diseases? How about major changes in diets rather than what we eat? Could that also be a major contributor to the upsurge in these new diseases? What else are we exposed to that could be the reason for the so far unexplained increase in non-communicable conditions?

One of our Guest Editors for this issue is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the American Heart Association. Dr. Nancy Brown impressed me so much that I requested her to prepare an editorial, which she graciously did. As we ended last year, my office sent Christmas and New Year greetings to all our friends and colleagues on our mailing list. We received responses and reciprocal messages from many of you; all this set us off to a good start in 2018. We do look forward to more engagements as the year proceeds.

This issue is dedicated to a good friend, a renowned scholar, an ardent communicator, a Kenyan of international repute, Dr. Calestous Juma who passed away on December 15, 2017. Just Google him and you will come to appreciate what he was all about. Though younger than myself, I held him in great regard as an intellectual mentor. I miss him dearly and wish his family God’s grace. By permission of The Conversation, we have reproduced one of his articles here. Calestous, may you rest in Eternal Peace.

Just to remind everyone, we are looking for a more sustainable way to maintain the journal, now in its 18th year, 81st issue, and boasting of 886 articles in total. We have so far mentored 38 youngscholars through the journal, and I consider these as future editors-in-chief.

If you have any ideas please share with me at oniango@iconnect.co.ke

In this issue, we have 2 invited Guest Editorials, both very interesting. I take this opportunity to thank our contributors and our authors for making Issue 81 possible. Please get in touch if you would like to be a Guest Editor or to contribute a commentary. We can also discuss putting out a SPECIAL issue on a topic of your choice.

The year 2018 started on a busy note. Starting mid-January, I made a 2-week visit to West Africa- Sierra Leone for my first visit, and Nigeria on behalf Sasakawa Africa Fund for Extension Education (SAFE). I visited Universities and was very encouraged to see them take the value chain approach seriously, including agro-processing and nutrition. I was equally impressed by the efforts towards community outreach and a desire to make a positive difference at that level. Then in March, I was in Brasilia, again for the first time, for Creating Shared Value Forum for Nestle. Awards went to some very innovative agro projects. At Easter, I was in Seville, at the Invitation of San Telmo Business School; this was my first time in Spain and what a great country. My daughter (who polished up her Spanish) and I got more than we expected. As you enjoy reading articles in this issue, please remember that what we eat matters. What we drink matters too. Let us not wait to become ill to start paying attention to these issues. NUTRITION matters, and we should all remember that it is a science, and a very complex one at that. Fortunately, it is getting recognized now, and there is a lot to do and to learn. For Africa’s food security and nutrition to make a difference, to stop children from dying and to afford people decent meals, we need to, first of all, appreciate our own foods and tostep up capacity building in these disciplines. In this issue, there is an interesting paper on the nutritional attributes of Chia seeds, a new entry into African diets from South America.

Ruth Oniang’o
Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND