|AdminHistory||In 1936, the Secretary of State circulated a despatch concerning nutrition in relation to agriculture and public health to the East African colonies and dependencies. Nyasaland was the only one of these which had a Native Welfare Committee and it was on its recommendations that the Nyasaland Nutrition Survey was subsequently set up under the leadership of Dr BS Platt.|
The Committee sent round a questionnaire to administrative, agricultural, medical and forestry officers and to Missions and educated Africans asking for information on all aspects of village life. On receipt of the answers, they decided that it was necessary to make further investigations into the actual foodstuffs, to measure labour supply, to study production methods of native foods and their relationship to economic crops and to discover the effects of male emigration on village life. They suggested that a team consisting of an anthropologist, a medical officer and an analyst should make in-depth investigations and measures adopted to improve the natives' diet.
Nutrition had been dealt with in an elementary way in Platt's memorandum from the answers to the questionnaires. To obtain a picture of present conditions it would have been necessary to analyse and determine the nutritive value of foodstuffs, assess their amounts, availability and cultivation, determine how improvements could be made and then educate the villagers in comparative values of staple foods and the advantages of a varied diet. Therefore, the notion that, not under-eating but a lack of a varied diet was the cause of nutritional disease, was beginning to be put forward.
Dr Platt arrived in Nyasaland in August 1938. His team of 5 began investigating a semi-urban group of Africans and then 3 villages in the Kota Kota district of the Northern Province. The chosen villages were different in terms of tribes, customs and climatic conditions. Though planned to last one year, observations were still being made in February 1940 and Dr Platt was then preparing his report prior to leaving Nyasaland.
To increase the scope of the investigations, an economic botanist arrived in January 1939, leaving in August. A fishery survey was also undertaken from January to September by which time war had been declared and the project came to an abrupt end.