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

UGAgri Group7 University of Guyana, Guyana
12.09.2013
UGAgri

UGAgri Group7 is a small group of students of the University of Guyana who are compiling a comprehensive report on food security and nutrition, particularly the effects of malnutrition on economies and the factors which contribute to food insecurity and the ensuing consequences. While the group has not targeted any one geographic region, developing countries-particularly Latin America and the Caribbean- are natural areas of focus. 
All posts made are via a collaborative effort by the members of the team. 

Regarding the discussion, we feel that:

Civil society and the private sector both have the potential to, and play big roles in issues relating to food security and nutrition in society. Civil society- usually an abstract for a number of NGOs tackling social and health issues- is often the leader in calls to the wider population to address issues that need addressing, and this must first be acknowledged and respected. So, empowering civil society to engage in policymaking and to encourage leading partnerships with other key role players will improve the creation of more effective food security and agricultural policies. In Guyana, nutrition concerns are rightfully aimed at children and current actions include school feeding programmes. Issues of sanitation and access to potable water in schools are still major concerns and need to be addressed for economic, health and social reasons if any dent is to be made in remedying low levels of nutrition in the most vulnerable segment of the population.

The private sector in recent times across the region and globally has made concerted efforts to work with other actors in states to raise levels of nutrition, typically by making cheaper, nutritious goods available to large sectors of the population where they were previously unavailable and by opening lines of credit for small scale farmers. More can be done to help establish markets in rural areas where markets for necessary inputs for small farmers are missing or incomplete, so as to facilitate the creation of community markets that control their own production and so, food security. It must be recognised that businesses tend to engage civil society on these matters only when they stand to gain viz. their objective to maximize profit. Nevertheless, much can be done by the private sector- and through a joint effort by the private sector and civil society, and even more is encouraged.

A partnership between the elements of civil society and the private sector- where it is possible- should strive to create channels for agricultural policymaking and dialogue between all stakeholders in general, and small farm owners in particular. Simultaneously, they need to collaborate to facilitate, enable and drive agricultural research on nutrition and to push for meaningful policies and decisions to be derived from this body of research and information.   

Kimberly Samaroo
Liza Dias
Shermain Gill
Tonnica Archer
Claude Dhanraj