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How to consider nutrition and household food security in the NFP planning process

How to consider nutrition and household food security in the NFP planning process

This section will follow the phases recommended for the formulation of the National Forest Programmes (NFPs) in the document " Basic Principles and Operational Guidelines (FAO, Rome 1996)" 2 and for each phase will describe the actions to be taken to incorporate household food security and nutrition considerations.

2 Also consult FAO, 1993 and FAO, 1991b.

A. Phase I: Organization of the process

A.1. Identifying stakeholders

In order to incorporate nutrition considerations into the formulation or revision of NFPs, it is important to identify institutions, community groups and people concerned with household food security and nutrition issues, both at national level and in forested areas.

1. At national level, the preparation of the International Conference of Nutrition (ICN, December 1992) and its follow-up, and in particular the preparation of the National Plans of Action for Nutrition, has contributed to strengthening the coordination between the different institutions. In all countries, a focal point has been identified and in most countries, an Inter-institutional Food and Nutrition Committee has been set up. Ministries of agriculture, health, education and rural development are usually involved in food and nutrition issues and some Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) may also play an important role in this field. The coordination mechanism set up for the ICN can facilitate identification and contacts with these institutions. NFP staff should therefore contact the FAO (or WHO) Representation in the country to get this information.

2. In forested areas, a variety of institutions and people are involved in / and concerned with development activities at community level which have a direct or indirect impact on household food security and malnutrition. These include government staff working at local level (health staff, agriculture extension staff, teachers), NGOs, people's organizations (e.g. local leaders, women's groups, trade unions, religious leaders...), food processors, food traders (shopkeepers intermediaries)... These institutions/ people can be identified locally through district authorities and/or key informants.

3. Collaboration with different sectors and community groups will ensure a multi-disciplinary and participatory approach to the NFP. They should therefore be involved from the start whenever possible in the formulation or revision of NFPs.

A.2. Dissemination and exchange of information

Meetings should then be organized, both at national and at local level in forested areas, with the people/institutions concerned, to collect relevant information and discuss a possible cooperation. Initial contacts may need to be made on a one-to-one basis but joint meetings can also be helpful in generating a consensus. This process will both ensure effective collection of relevant data and involve stakeholders in the planning of strategies and activities in the implementation of which they will play a role. It will therefore contribute to improving project design and increasing its sustainability.

B. Phase II: Strategic planning

B.1. Review of forestry and forest related sectors

- As part of an initial assessment of the main problems and opportunities for forest resource conservation and management, it is important to consult the existing information on forest users and nutrition.

- Information on food-related practices of population groups living in forested areas or in their vicinity, including their food habits and perceptions of foods, is essential for understanding of

a the local food and nutrition situation and its evolution and

b people's practices regarding the exploitation of forest resources.

- Much of that information can usually be found in the scientific literature, since the issue is of interest to social sciences researchers or biologists (and in particular anthropologists or ethnobotanists). However the latter are likely to concentrate on specific population groups or on the local fauna and flora rather than on the local food and nutrition situation. Development planners and policy makers may not even be aware of the existence of this material. Moreover, the professional background of the authors and the requirements for scientific publications can render this information difficult to find, understand and use.

- Some information on the productivity, nutritional value and use of locally relevant NWFPs may be available but is often fragmentary. Checklists of wild plant and animal species eaten by rainforest people now exist for many countries and databases on their nutritional value are being set up. If not, relevant data3 can be found in existing food composition tables in similar ecological areas. Development institutions however usually do not know that such information exists.

3 These data should be used critically since the chemical composition of plants varies according to its age and geographical origin (it varies according to climate, altitude or soil).

- "Hard data" on the contribution of NWFPs to local diets are often seen as necessary to raise the awareness of policy-makers as to their potential or to warn them against possible negative implications of development programmes on the food and nutrition situation of indigenous groups if the contribution of NWFPs to local consumption patterns is ignored. In fact little information is available on the impact on diets of the reduced consumption of forest foods. Such data are either missing or inadequate since consumption of forest foods is generally under-reported and nutrition studies generally do not address this topic specifically.

- This is also the case for the economic significance of NWFPs. As a rule, no estimates are made of the cash equivalent of their indirect contribution to food security of subsistence households.

- Existing information on the nutritional status of indigenous groups living in or near forested areas, its evolution and its relation with the national average can provide a good indicator of the severity of the problem.

- NFP staff should therefore contact academic institutions (departments of social sciences - anthropology, ethnology, sociology... -, nutrition, forestry and botanic, environment) in the country to ask for relevant information for incorporation in the document presenting the results of the sectoral review.

The following points should be considered:

1. Identification of forested areas;

2. for each forested area, identification of population groups living:

· in forested area

· near forested area

· seasonally passing through

3. for each of these groups:

· size and lifestyle (habitat, farming systems/income generation)

· food consumption habits

· use of forest products (what? when? by whom? what for?)

· nutritional status/existence of nutritional problems

B.2. Development of specific studies

- For each forest area identified in the review of the forestry sector, a more in depth study of food security and nutrition should be done in the framework of the in-depth sector analysis.

- The information collected during forestry sector review will need to be complemented at local level through:

· interviews of key informants (see institutions/people identified in section "Identifying stakeholders".)

· revision of locally available information

· rapid appraisal (RRA) of the food and nutrition situation of indigenous groups living in and near the forest area identified.

- This study will provide complementary information on household food systems (how does the household acquire and process the food it consumes: what? when? where? who?) and their evolution, will identify constraints to nutrition and food security, will explore the interface between forestry and nutrition, identify possible lines of action and corresponding indicators. Check-list # 1 provides a list of issues to be explored during the RRA exercise. Table 2 provides a list of RRA techniques selected as particularly relevant to the issues addressed.

Multi-disciplinary teams

In North Vietnam, RRA was found to be an effective methodology for the collection of information related to forestry and food security. The researchers found that a multidisciplinary team composed of forestry sector personnel, nutritionists and social scientists was essential to address the multi-faceted issues involved in dependency on forests and trees for food security. In particular, interviews were helpful in determining community dependency on forest and tree products for food security including the most vulnerable groups, and the forest and tree species used by local people (Yen et al. 1994).

- The participation of the community and of local development institutions in determining forest related problems and activities will ensure an appropriate focus and sustainability of the project.

- Besides, most of the knowledge on local edible plants (harvesting, processing, preparation) is part of indigenous knowledge. In many parts of the world, this knowledge is being lost at an accelerated pace and disappears with changes in lifestyle (decrease in subsistence use of wild species, changing occupational patterns of household members) and disappearance of village elders. Retrieving this knowledge on a systematic basis would provide invaluable information to forestry planners.

- Whenever possible, holding a multi-disciplinary planning workshop gathering the different stakeholders at the local level to review findings, help identify lines of action and allocate responsibilities would be an effective means to generate the required consensus and ensure the involvement of existing institutions in the implementation of follow-up activities. Food and nutrition could be the main topic or one of the issues in such a workshop.

Finally, NFP staff should ensure that the outcome of these action-oriented studies are adequately incorporated in the overall planning process and in particular that relevant aspects are included in the list of options produced during the strategic planning phase.

Table 2

Participatory Methods for Gathering Forestry and Nutrition Information

Method Information Gathered

Seasonal calendar

Cropping patterns, food prices, food availability(cultivated and wild), common illnesses, economic activities

Oral traditions patterns

Food habits, social uses of food, changes in food


Food production and gathering sites, fuelwood collection sites, food distribution sites, water sources, health facilities, houses

Time charts of representative individuals

Task allocation, use and availability of time, gender issues, role of children


Preferences, priority problems

Popular theater. Role playing, Games, Celebrations

Raise community awareness about food security and nutrition issues, promote participation

Checklist # 1

1. Forest and tree resources

_ Who uses and to what end are the forests and trees used? (food production, income generation, fuel wood, etc.)

_ Are there limitations in terms of access to forest and tree resources?

_ Do access restrictions have a more serious effect on food supply or nutrition during particular seasons ?

_ If fuel wood is collected, who collects it and what is the estimated fuel collection and what is the estimated fuel collection time ?

_ Does fuel wood supply limit the number of meals cooked a day or limit the time available to women or men for other activities?

_ What food processing/preservation or income generating activities require fuel wood ?

2. Nutrition and food security

_ Is malnutrition a familiar notion to the community?

_ What does the community perceive as malnutrition? How important is it?

_ How many thin children or adults are there in the community?

_ How do people describe or explain this?

_ What do they do about it?

_ What are the contributing factors to nutrition problems in the area? (geographic area, farming system, poverty, labour, land, policies, infection, food supply, women's time, cultural/religious factors, etc.)

_ Who are the nutritionally vulnerable? (Is it related to gender, age, landholding or ethnic group?)

_ Are there seasonal dimensions to nutrition problems?

_ What do community members say about the nature and importance of wild foods ?

_ What do the residents say about food related problems?

_ Do they identify constraints in availability/ scarcity of specific food items?

_ What is the food storage capacity and what are the storage methods?

3. Income generation

_ Who is employed in forestry or earns money from forest/tree products or processing ?

_ What forestry products are traded?

_ Does it vary by season?

_ What products are used by small scale enterprises for processing?

_ When are the cash need periods?

_ Are some forest products sold to obtain cash for the purchase of basic foods?

_ Are there periodic shortages of these products ?

_ Are there ownership/tenure patterns that regulate the exploitation of these products ?

4. Health/Infection

_ What are the prevailing diseases in the community? Who suffers from them?

_ When do people suffer from them most?

_ What causes them?

_ How do people deal with disease?

_ What support is available? (Traditional healers, Community health worker, Health services) vices)

_ Are there medicines derived from trees and-forests that can alleviate these problems?

5. Living environment

_ Where does the community or household get its water for drinking, food preparation, washing and agricultural uses?

_ What happens to waste water?

_ How many rooms do typical households have for how many people?

_ What are the practices regarding defecation?

_ What are the hygiene practices in relation to food preparation, consumption and storage?

B.3. Policy Formulation and Action Planning

On the basis of the information gathered, NFP staff should be able to ensure that food security of households living in and/ or near the forested areas considered has been systematically taken into account when finalizing planning of forest development (management and conservation) activities to be included in the Plan of Action, that specific activities have been designed to promote food security and appropriate nutrition of vulnerable households and that effective coordination has been established with local institutions involved in nutrition-related activities.

A Including Household Food Security and Appropriate Nutrition of indigenous groups in NFP objectives

Improving the quality of life (and in particular the satisfaction of basic needs such as food and shelter) of indigenous groups living in or near forested areas should be an explicit objective of all NFPs. A food security and nutrition goal must be included in the National Forest Policy.

B Incorporating Household Food Security concerns into forest development

The main thrust of National Forest Programmes is to make the best use of existing forest resources. These plans will therefore combine a series of activities to promote a more rational exploitation of these resources and to ensure their conservation.

It is important to consider the potential negative effects of these activities on nutrition, as well as the tradeoffs. Some of them could for example:

- reduce food production by affecting traditional farming systems;

- reduce the access to forest products for those most dependent on those resources

- or increase the time women spend involved in a particular activity (e.g. collecting fuel wood).

In view of the information gathered all activities should be systematically screened in terms of their impact on household food security and nutrition of the local population. Whenever possible their design should be revised accordingly.

Considering Household Food Security issues is often in the foresters' and environmentalists' best interest: if both wood and non-wood forest products are seen by the local population both as a source of food and as an important source of local income, they will make sure that such forest resources are managed sustainably.

Forest management

Researchers in Northeast Thailand recommended that forest management must protect the remaining forest and provide for the needs of people who have traditionally depended on the forest for a wide range of products (Saowakontha et al. 1993). They mad e several specific recommendations:

- employ the most vulnerable in reforestation efforts;

- pay daily wages;

- provide training and education in how to improve soil quality emphasizing the environmental contribution that forests make

- provide nutrition education and education for school children plant fast growing trees

- listen to the opinion of the headman and community members in project development.

C Designing activities to promote household food security and nutrition

Specific activities to promote household food security and appropriate nutrition of the local population should be systematically incorporated into NFPs.

On the basis of the information gathered in Phase II and in coordination with beneficiaries and local development institutions, NFP staff will:

_ define target groups:

- food insecure households living in or near the forested area(s). (e.g. female-headed, unemployed, landless, land-poor...);

- households living in or near forest areas which depend permanently or periodically or occasionally on the use of forest resources for food security;

- communities and households suffering from poor environmental conditions linked to the degradation of natural resources (in particular insufficient or low-quality water supply), resulting in impaired health and malnutrition of vulnerable individuals.

_ design activities addressing the constraints faced by these target groups. These could include and/or combine:

- improved food production (increase and/or diversification), e.g. agroforestry, home gardens, domestication of forest resources, ...

- income-generating activities based on a more rational exploitation of wood and non-wood forest products (production but also processing, storage and commercialization) and on the creation of local forest-related industries;

- improved access to fuel

- improved living environment (e.g. reforestation, protection of water sources)

- more effective selection of tree species

- ensuring positive benefits for nutritionally vulnerable groups.

Given the key role played by women in most of these issues, the incorporation of household food security and nutrition concerns in NFPs will lead to the development of activities which will both facilitate their tasks and enable them to deal effectively with the constraints they are facing.

D Ensuring local coordination

Malnutrition is the outcome of a combination of intersectorial causes which result in disease, insufficient access to food, and poor nutrition practices. NFPs should include activities to address the causes related to forest use but cannot be expected to address other causes which existing development institutions (government or NGOs) arc better equipped to handle.

The consultation and coordination process initiated from the start between the different stakeholders (see A.1. and following) will have led at local level to a common understanding of which arc the vulnerable households and what constraints they are facing. It is expected that the institutions involved will follow up on the issues relevant to their mandate and/or expertise. In the case that the resources required are available either in the community or in the relevant institution(s), some activities may actually be initiated immediately.

NFPs should actively promote the coordination mechanism required to ensure an integrated approach at household level, for example by promoting inter-institutional meetings at local level to discuss progress of activities and the difficulties encountered.

FAO Forest and Food Security Projects

- Fores et Securite Alimentaire en Afrique Sahelienne" This project is aimed at developing forestry's contribution to food security in Cape Verde, Mali and Faso.

_ In Cape Verde the main components of this project are the

- strengthen the national forestry service by developing national technical skills;

- develop, based on a participatory approach, pilot models for management of Prosopis plantations in Santiago and Maio;

- promote development fruit tree and beekeeping in several different locations.

_ In Mali, the main objective is to implement a participatory forestry management plan for Kaboila State Protected Forest.

_ In Burkina Faso, the goals are to implement a participatory forest management plan for 10000 ha of natural village forests and to increase agropastoral production yields.

A pre-formulation mission in mid 1993 made several recommendations concerning participatory methodologies, natural resource management and income generating activities. They emphasized strengthening project staff skills in the participatory approach and collaborating closely with national institutions at all levels. Project outputs due in the near future are a thematic mapping of communities and training tools for specific subjects.

- As an early part of FAO's project "Forestry and Food Security" in the Mid and Near East Region, project staff have listed potential activities focusing on:

- improving and managing forest pasture

- managing forests for fuelwood production

- improving communal rangeland

- reducing afforestation costs

- introducing alternative sources of energy

- enhancing agroforestry

- setting up experimental design plots.

C. implementation of actions

C.1. Institutional aspects

- In order to ensure that Nutrition concerns are adequately addressed in the formulation of the NFP, one person in the National Coordinating Unit should be responsible for food and nutrition issues. This person should work in close collaboration with the person/institution coordinating the follow-up of the International Conference for Nutrition in the country and in particular the preparation and implementation of the National Plan of Action for Nutrition.

- Local training on food security and nutrition and/ or visits by relevant national or international experts (e.g. nutritionists) to the area should be encouraged as this would provide further opportunities for exchange of information and dialogue between food security and nutrition partners and would contribute to build up the capacity of field staff.

C.2. Monitoring and evaluation

At community level

- The participatory monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of the impact of NFP activities on nutrition and food security is essential to ensure continuous feedback and adjustments based on experience. If the community has been effectively involved (see phase III) in problem analysis and selection of activities, the corresponding indicators will likely be acceptable to both NFP staff and beneficiaries. The involvement from the start of other institutions active at local level will also ensure that they are compatible with existing data-collection and monitoring systems at community and local level.

- NFP activities are likely to affect the food and nutrition situation of households in a variety of ways, which will depend on local ecological and socio-cultural factors. The following list (Checklist #2) is therefore indicative and will need to be adapted and completed on the basis of the analysis carried in phases II and III.

At local level

- Information collected and analysed at community level through this participatory approach must be collated and discussed at local level by the institutions identified in section A. 1.

- The inter-institutional coordination process required to improve the local food and nutrition situation should be monitored and supported by the NFP.

Setting up a Food and Nutrition Surveillance System

An important element of the policies selected in Phase IV should be the development of an effective food and nutrition surveillance system for monitoring purposes. A local system should be designed on the basis of the information gathered in phases I to III, of the resources of existing institutions and according to the activities considered to improve the food and nutrition situation of households living in and near forested areas. It should then be integrated into existing monitoring systems at community and local level. Finally it should be integrated into regional and/or national food and nutrition surveillance systems and/or other related monitoring system.


Checklist # 2

1. Food practices

_ Range of foods used over the seasons, snack food consumption, gathered forest foods

_ Duration of crop availability reliability of crop production year to year, number of months of staple food self-sufficiency, duration of hunger periods. er periods.

_ Perceptions of foods (e.g. foods perceived as luxuries or delicacies)

_ Frequency of meals and snack foods

_ Amount of stored foods, length of food storage

_ Number of meals reheated, dishes saved but not reheated before eating

_ Child feeding practices including medicines and "health" foods fed to children when ill, extent of consumption of snack foods, meal frequency, weaning foods

_ Coping mechanisms: emergency measures during hunger periods, foods consumed only in famine situations

_ Availability of alternative food sources, especially forest foods

_ Periods of market availability and prices of foods in hunger periods

2. Income

_ Cash requirements - regular, occasional (tax payments, school fees,

_ How income spent (on more food? other basic needs? "luxuries"?) and invested (e.g. in land, livestock, new tools)

_ Who within the household earns, spends and controls money?

_ Change in purchasing power and debts

_ Food purchases during hunger periods

_ Livestock sold to tide through emergency period

3. Environmental health

_ Housing

_ Water quality and quantity

_ Incidence of environmentally induced disease

4. Equity

_ Changes in the division of labour and time use by gender

_ Changes in distribution of production resources

_ Changes in income distribution

_ Changes in distribution of knowledge and skills nd skills

5. Community participation

_ Percentage of households involved in at least one activity

_ Changing size of group membership during the project ing the project

_ Frequency of attendance at meetings

_ Involvement of marginalized households lds

_ Number of person/days of labour involved in project activity

_ Number, percentage and gender of persons assuming leadership roles

6. Interactions of the community with external services

_ Number and types of institutions with which the community has established regular links

_ Participation of community in external decisions affecting it directly

_ Number of people trained by external institutions

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