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Re: The contribution of the private sector and civil society to improve nutrition

Ms. Simona Seravesi ECDPM, Netherlands
01.10.2013
Simona

Dear all,

This  is  a  contribution  from  the  ECDPM  on  the  following  set  of  questions:  “Partnerships: How can we work across sectors and build strong linkages between food and agriculture, social protection, employment, health, education and other key sectors? How can we create sustainable partnerships? how can we build effective governance for nutrition?”

The    multi-­    sectoral    nature    of    promoting    nutrition    security    requires    different interventions that address under-­nutrition directly, through measures to improve and increase access and availability of a nutritious food supply; indirectly, through production and education measures to raise awareness of the importance of nutrition; and through an enabling  environment  that  brings  institutional  support  as  well  as  better  rural infrastructures, property rights to ensure land tenure; equal land distribution access to education; and gender balance in participation in markets. Neither public nor private actors can address these single-­‐handedly. 

As a consequence, a key aspect is the recognition of the need for multi-­stakeholder partnerships. Despite the growing interest in multi-­‐stakeholder partnerships, there are still many questions to be addressed such as what are the main characteristics, drivers and constraints   of   these   partnerships   including   governments,   business   and   Civil   Society Organizations (CSOs).  

To explore these issues, the ECDPM has recently published a paper “The enriching business of nutrition. Market-­based partnerships and regional approaches to nutrition: what role for  CAADP?” which  examines  the  challenges posed by market-­‐based partnerships model in promoting nutrition and the potential benefits of a regional approach to nutrition and implications for policy-­‐makers and donors. 

The  private  sector  plays  an  important  role  in  scaling  up  nutrition  and  many  large multinationals from the food, health and agricultural sectors (e.g. DSM, BASF, UNILEVER, GSK, Cargill, etc.) are increasingly engaging in nutrition-­related  research, investments, and production, through a range of different types of partnerships and business. There is also an increasing awareness of the commercial interest of operating at the Base of the Pyramid (BoP)1 as it can offer opportunities to link private sector interests with development objectives, including around nutrition.  

The  ECDPM  paper  highlights  that  implications  and  scalability  of  business  models  are still being discovered, with questions emerging already about the ideal form of partnership, roles of partners and the impact of the broader enabling environment.  Given the various risks involved in market-­‐based approaches, it may be difficult to draw concrete lessons from pilot projects, where lack of commercial sustainability may be due to the business environment, the business model or the specifics of working with nutritional foods.                                                      

Private sector partners must therefore work with the public sector and Civil Society Organizations to try and draw out relevant lessons for policy.  But, the role of the private sector implies discussions about the degree to which market-­‐driven  models can be used to meet goals for reducing under-­‐nutrition in developing countries.

Even with the growing recognition of the potential role of the private sector, partnerships and lessons from these for donors remain in their infancy. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and AIM appear to offer a good platform for taking the agenda forward. As the GAIN and AIM models are also seen by the private sector as a way to enter into new markets and experiment, these may offer the best focal points for lessons that can be learnt from existing partnerships.

A  useful  dialogue  within  the  donor  community  is  needed  on  the  nature  of  public-­ private partnerships. In addition if donors are to engage more with the private sector on nutrition, an important role might be in building trust and credibility around multi-­‐ stakeholder partnerships by supporting research and baseline studies to assess the impact of the engagement of the private sector.

Donor support might also help in linking different market-­based approaches to nutrition. Multi-­‐ stakeholder partnerships are generally targeted at a particular niche or market opportunity, while the discussion above highlights the need for broad, multi-­‐sectoral approaches. There may therefore be a role for coordinating and ensuring not only that the broad supporting environment is in place, but also coordinating different multi-­‐stakeholder projects to mutually support one-­‐another.

From a government perspective, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, CAADP and its prominent role in guiding policy on food security and nutrition in Africa, can offer a framework to maximise the development benefits from these multi-­stakeholders partnership models.

Even regional approaches are widely recognised as being beneficial in principle, but have yet to be translated into concrete actions. Addressed in the context of CAADP and with nutrition as a focus, this may again be a way to promote multiple objectives around the goal of improving nutrition. This might include analysis and case studies on the impacts of cross-­‐border trade and their impacts on the nutritional status of populations around development corridors, for example.

A better understanding of the lessons from existing projects addressing nutrition and dialogue among stakeholders on how partnerships can be more effective may help to bring further clarity and to better focus on what works and what does not.   Regular multi-­‐stakeholder dialogues to share lessons among the full range of partners will be important to build trust, and understand how best to support such partnerships. These need to take place at the national, regional and international level, something that ECDPM is willing to support.

Thank you! Kind regards, Simona Seravesi

1 The BoP approach is about how international companies can adapt or introduce new business models that combine small margins with large markets of low-income consumers.