71 How can agricultural investments promote quality, safe and nutritious foods for healthy diets?

Making the case for an investment shift - Implementing the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition

Organizers

  • World Health Organisation (WHO), and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • World Bank
  • IFAD
  • Member State
  • IFPRI

Abstract

Investments affect the way food systems function. One action area of the UN Nutrition Decade focuses on key opportunities to achieve global food security and nutrition targets through conducive investment policies. International Financial Institutions (IFIs) such as the WB, IFAD and AfDB are already taking steps to transform this commitment into action and mainstream nutrition in their agriculture and rural development investments. This event will examine the way such agricultural incentives and investments can lead to a healthier food system, looking at investments along the entire food value chain from production to consumption.

The side event takes stock of recent developments aimed to optimize nutritional returns of agricultural investments. It will look into how food supply systems and key policies are linked with concrete diet quality outcomes, and how well designed policies and financing can change food systems towards healthier diets. The event will present examples from countries of key policies and practices shaping investments in the agriculture and food sector, and discuss key challenges to be addressed (such as data and capacity gaps) to strengthen linkages between agriculture investments and access to and availability of a healthy diet. It will draw lessons from recent experience in order to discuss a way forward under the Nutrition Decade.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Khaled El Taweel, Chair CFS Open Ended Working Group – Nutrition, Counsellor and Alternate Permanent Representative of the Arab Republic of Egypt to FAO
  • Marzella Wüstefeld, Technical Officer, Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, WHO
  • Preeti S. Ahuja, Practice Manager, Food and Agriculture Global Practice, World Bank Group
  • Shantanu Mathur, Lead Adviser, Programme Management Department, IFAD
  • Mafizur Rahman, Counsellor (Economics Affairs) and Alternate Permanent Representative of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to FAO
  • Mitiku Tesso Jebessa, Minister Plenipotentiary and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia to FAO
  • Moderator – Günter Hemrich, Deputy Director a.i., Nutrition and Food Systems Division, FAO

Summary

Investments affect the way food systems function. Action area 4 of the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, focuses on key opportunities to achieve global food security and nutrition targets through conducive investment policies and programmes.

International financial institutions are taking steps to transform commitments made at the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in 2014 into action by mainstreaming nutrition in their agricultural and rural development investments. The side event took stock of recent developments aimed at optimizing nutritional returns of agricultural investments.

In his welcome address, the CFS OEWG Chair explained in the coming biennium, CFS will consider providing policy guidance on how investments contribute to better nutrition under the Nutrition Decade. He shared main conclusions of the CFS intersessional nutrition events including that public investments in food systems should be aligned with other goals such as improved social and health outcomes.

The WB speaker noted that the available information on public investments in agriculture focuses on production, stops at the farm gate and does not look further. Globally, agricultural subsidies are estimated at USD 675 billion and mainly focus on 4 staple crops, with limited supply response to fruit and vegetables and other non-staples. There is a disconnect between dietary guidance and food system investments. A shift in investments from mainly quantitative aspects to quality diversity of food production is urgently needed. She furthermore underlined that the food economy provides opportunities to reshape food systems for delivering healthy diets. It is important to systematically include specific indictors to measure nutrition impact of agriculture investment projects.  

The IFAD speaker outlined how past evaluations had shown that IFAD’s investments rates were high, but at the same time consumers had shifted their food basket to more processed foods and less locally diverse foods. This had triggered a shift in project design that included among others the following aspects:

  • Clear quantitative targets: at least 50% of new projects and 100% of Country Strategic Opportunities Programme to be nutrition-sensitive
  • Promotion of production diversity to foster dietary diversity
  • Policy dialogue on nutrition with respective partners, including Ministry of Agriculture and Ministries of Planning and Finance
  • In-country capacity development on nutrition-sensitive agriculture, including the implementation of a guidance note on nutrition-sensitive value chains.

Bangladesh and Ethiopia shared their experiences in developing and implementing nutrition-sensitive policies and projects to shape their agricultural investments and the challenges they are facing, including lack of market linkages and nexus between nutrition and climate change adaptation actions.  Both countries noted that the fundamental factor to strengthen the linkages between agricultural investments and access to and availability of healthy diets is close coordination among multi-sectoral key stakeholders and their financial, technical and implementing capacity.  

In the discussion the important role of R&D was highlighted and the need for research to be more focused. Also, the role of bio-fortification was raised among the audience.

Key outcomes/take away messages

The event fostered better understanding of the Nutrition Decade’s action area 4 through an interactive discussion on existing gaps and a way forward to engage under the Nutrition Decade.

  • Thanks to the ICN2, Sustainable Development Goal (especially goal 2) and the Nutrition Decade, more momentum has been generated on the important role of nutrition-sensitive agricultural investments.
  • There is a disconnect between dietary guidance and food system investments.
  • A shift in investments away from the current focus on the quantitative production of few crops to increased quality and diversity of food production is urgently needed.
  • Although public investments are considering nutrition-sensitive agriculture, this is not really changing the core investment flow.
  • Public sector is not the major investor, it is rather a catalyst for choices made by private sector investments.
  • Evidence-based approaches and a focus on nutrition-sensitive value chains (to explore both supply and demand sides) would be necessary. 
Side Event - 71 - How can agricultural investments promote quality, safe and nutritious foods for healthy diets?