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Without preparing the ground, investments in agriculture will not contribute to ending malnutrition

Myanmar, Niger and ECOWAS report progress in developing an enabling environment for ensuring that efforts towards Zero Hunger achieve impact

Madeleine Onclin, Team Leader, Head of Sector “Nutrition” DEVCO, European Commission speaking at FIRST initiative side event
29/11/2018 Bangkok, Thailand

Big investments in the rice sector can boost rice production and exports, but do not guarantee that people’s food security and nutrition will improve, policy experts on the sidelines of an IFPRI-FAO conference to accelerate an end to hunger and malnutrition warned today.

“In order to accelerate towards ending hunger and malnutrition, more investments are needed, but investments on their own will not necessarily contribute to the solution, unless an enabling environment provides the right conditions for those investments to produce real impact on improving food security and nutrition for all,” said Karel Callens, deputy leader of FAO’s Strategic Programme for the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.

Callens made the remarks during a side event during the IFPRI-FAO global event on Accelerating the End of Hunger and Malnutrition taking place in Bangkok.

Policies with impact, thanks to close partnerships of Governments, FAO and EU

The side event heard how the Myanmar government has recently passed a new land-use law that allows and encourages farmers and other investors to out-resource in the production of diversified crops. It is a way to increase the availability of, and access to, varied, fresh and nutritious foods in the country and ensure that investments in sustainable agriculture really lead to better nutrition.

“Securing land tenure is critical, but also allowing farmers to use their land to cultivate diverse crops and not just rice”, said Kyaw SweLin,Director General of the Department of Planning at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation from Myanmar.

In this innovative approach of linking land tenure and nutrition, the FIRST Programme (a strategic partnership between the European Union and FAO) supported Myanmar in formulating and implementing the necessary legislative and policy changes and strengthening coordination among different Governmental actors.

“In West Africa, we often see that food security and nutrition are not mainstreamed in the fisheries sector”, maintained Sidibe Aboubacar, a FIRST Policy Officer working with the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS).

In West Africa, almost 60 percent of the households depend on fisheries for their animal protein needs. However, the mean consumption in the area (in countries like Liberia lies under kg per capita per year) is far away from the global average (20.2 kg per capita per year). To unlock the full potential of fisheries and aquaculture, the ECOWAS has reviewed its policies and programmes and defined the key areas and priorities for investments to produce impact on food security and nutrition.

In the case of Niger, the main issue to set the conditions for investments to improve food security and nutrition was precisely to identify the resource needs and priorities, in order to mobilize the funds and budget the programs and plans. “It was important to align the priorities and budgets of the all the ministries and sectors that can contribute to end malnutrition”, explained Ali Bety, Minister and High Commissioner of the 3N Initiative in Niger.

Through its network of policy experts embedded in different ministries and institutions, FIRST is currently working hand in hand with Governments in over 30 countries from Latin America, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and Asia and the Pacific. The program adds value to investments by preparing the ground for greater effectiveness and it also acts as a broker between the real game-changers –the Governments–, development partners like the EU and technical agencies like FAO.

“FIRST policy officers facilitate coordination among all stakeholders,” from Government to civil society, international partners or private sector, to pull resources throughout the country and contribute to the political commitment to end hunger,” explained Sokunthea By, from the European Union Delegation in Cambodia.

“This particular initiative brings expertise in the countries where the focus is on food security and sustainable agriculture,” said Madeleine Onclin, Team Leader and Head of Section Nutrition in the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission. “We have seen that it adds value in different countries and different sectors, so that we get the best results from our investments,” Onclin added.

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