“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Agriculture and nutrition need to be addressed together rather than separately. Well, of course, that seems obvious, right? Except that, over time the division between the two has grown. It is clear that multi-sectoral approaches are required to tackle both for better nutrition and sustainable diets.

 

As the African proverb suggests, to ‘go far’ we need to work together. Food security and nutrition were key issues at this year’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS). Collaborative action amongst different stakeholders from various sectors is key, and needs to address these issues from a wide range of perspectives. Yet, collaboration has its own challenges:  budget needs and trust among stakeholders are issues, especially in countries with strong political influence. Despite this, however, efforts are being made around the world to ‘go further’ to improve nutrition and achieve sustainable diets.

Victor Wasike, the National Project Coordinator for the Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN) Initiative in Kenya, discussed the challenges and possibilities of stronger collaboration at a side event on the topic during CFS43. Data is essential to engage stakeholders, he said, because “data makes a difference”.  He outlined a project focused on revitalizing interest in farmers and schools in African Leafy Vegetables (ALVs) for better nutrition. It also aimed to address the demand and supply constraints linked to marketing traditional crops. The initiative, focused on Busia County,  looked at the statistics related to malnutrition.  In Kenya, 26% children under five are stunted, and 5.6% are overweight.  So how can traditional crops address these problems?

Once the data was collected, it was vital to call on county members and experts from Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Education, Environment, Public Health and Forestry to act. Women, youth groups, schools, farmers and community health members were brought together to re-introduce the use of indigenous crops in everyday diets. Training on cooking ALVs, food fairs and getting youth involved helped raise awareness of the importance of indigenous crops. Today, students have ALVs three times a day, compared to only once a week before the intervention.

The BFN Initiative is a great example of how and why different stakeholders are needed to tackle an issue in a collective way. The data is key, as it provides a benchmark in terms of the current situation and shows what needs to be done to move from the policy to action. By working with ministries and various community members, the initiative was able to ‘go far together’ and to create those linkages between agriculture and better nutrition.

One of the most interesting points that Victor discussed with me after the event, was the idea of changing perspectives as a way to further engage and interest different stakeholders, especially those that are often ‘suspicious’ of listening to others. “You start by working at the ministerial and policy level; to insist on the fact that we WANT to work together,” says Victor. Telling people what they ‘have to do’ doesn’t have the same effect as coming to a shared understanding of why we need to work together. We should be changing our perspective that collective action equals collective benefit for the community!

There will always be some challenges to this. As Victor mentioned, limited budgets can be an issue and, depending on the area, traditional perspectives may get in the way of final project goals and results.

However, if we want to turn policies into action, communities must first agree to working together for their collective benefit because they want to, and based on concrete evidence.

Working together is easier said than done, but if our current issues are all interconnected, why aren’t we tackling them in a more united and integrated way? 

 

This blogpost was written by Alexandra del Castello, #CFS43 Social Reporters-- alex.delcastello(at)mail.utoronto.ca 

Photo courtesy: Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (flickr)

This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

24/10/2016 13:00

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