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Purpose of developing the Guidelines

Nutrition and health issues should be considered vital components of both economic and social development programmes. One way to ascertain that the Guidelines have the desired impact is to incorporate these health and nutrition issues in agricultural research programmes, because agricultural research offers a direct line to the entire agricultural sector.

In many developing countries, up to 70 percent of the population is employed in the agricultural sector. Thus, a sound economic development strategy for a developing country must begin with a healthy agricultural sector. In addition, economic and social development require an adequate and well-trained workforce which, in turn, requires a well nourished and healthy population. Yet, often because of inadequate socio-economic structures and systems and/or political instability, sustainable food security and good nutritional status are not obtainable. This situation is particularly crucial in rural areas.

During the past two decades, global food production has increased at a faster rate than the human population growth rate, largely because of improved agricultural production technology. Unfortunately, not all regions have been able to take advantage of the improved technology. Advanced technology is often accessible only to producers of export cash crops and a few large commercial farmers, while the majority of the population, which derives its livelihood from subsistence farming, still depends on rudimentary technology for food production and processing. Hence food insecurity and malnutrition mainly affect subsistence farm families and rural dwellers. It is for this reason that small, resource poor farmers, farm workers and their dependants are the primary focus of these Guidelines.

A sound economic development strategy for a developing country must begin with a healthy agricultural sector.

Agricultural research has been identified as a key entry point for enabling the rural poor to participate in, and contribute effectively to, the development process. Participating countries at the 1992 International Conference on Nutrition (ICN), which was sponsored by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO), requested that strategies for incorporating nutrition elements into agricultural research be developed. Recognizing that agricultural research and nutrition have the common goals of reducing poverty and improving the food security situation of subsistence farm families. FAO initiated the development of these Guidelines to encourage and assist member countries in incorporating nutrition considerations into their agricultural research agendas. This application of nutrition into agricultural research programmes has the potential to make existing research programmes more relevant and useful to the development process.

FAO also recognizes that acceptance of, and commitment to implement these Guidelines depends largely on the soundness and practical nature of the document and, thus, has involved the main stakeholders in the Guideline development.

In this regard, consultations were held with international agricultural research centres (IARCs), national agricultural research systems (NARS) and practitioners in the technical areas of agricultural research, extension and nutrition. In addition, case studies and resource papers from various experiences were developed to provide background information for those initially drafting the Guidelines. They were then reviewed by a group of stakeholders representing the disciplines covered by the Guidelines, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government workers and representatives of the private sectors, at a workshop held in 1997 in Accra, Ghana. The purpose of this review was to further develop the Draft Guidelines for adoption and subsequent implementation. In April, 1999, four countries from the South African Development Community (SADC), Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland, met in Pretoria, South Africa, to discuss and devise strategies for implementing the Guidelines and to develop «plans of action» for implementation in their countries. In some countries, such as Mozambique and Swaziland, the implementation process has begun.

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