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

Anna Antwi GD Resource Center (development NGO), Ghana

Both the private sector and civil society including their organisations can contribute positively to nutrition outcomes. However we should guard against companies trying to hide behind the poor to take advantage of their situation to exploit the under-nourished. Again, both the private sector and civil society organisations can work effectively as individual entities, as collaborators and also partners with the government to enhance nutrition.

Policy: National policies should support public-private partnership in a way that production of nutritional foods would be much cheaper and easily accessible to all. The private sector majority of who are farmers in developing countries may contribute in various ways. Companies (through their corporate social responsibility) should easily identify with nutrition problems and provide support if the government sees it as a priority. The companies may support and encourage farmers (through access to inputs, providing extension services/ technology dissemination, providing capacity building, introducing them to new varieties etc) to boost production, link them to market source. Some companies may also encourage farmers (with support of civil society) to form and strengthen their groups to be linked to an aggregator or market outlet. The private sector can also act as  a nucleus farmer or contract farmer. Some private sector operators can support and link farmers up with financial institutions for easy access to the market. These activities (or programs) should have clear policy guidelines that will encourage the private sector to operate. The bottom line is a win-win for all stakeholders. The policy should create a free and conducive environment for private sector and civil society to work. Civil society is best in advocacy and drawing policy makers attention to policy and implementation gaps. Since they operate at various levels and in networks, they can also link up to bring best practices, make their voices heard.

Programme: Farmers and farmer groups  as private sector may produce to respond to specific needs – for example in high Vitamin A deficient areas, farmers could be supported to produce crops such as orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP) and civil society may educate the populace in Vitamin A deficiencies, causes, prevention and remedies or solutions using food based approaches. The private sector and civil society may support and educate the population on post harvest loss, handling, food processing, preservation, storage, utilization and marketing. Women and girls could also receive education from both private sector and civil society on various issues relating to production, health care, hygiene, food safety and handling. Private sector could establish industries or cottage industries dealing with value addition along the chain, processing etc.

Land owners could go into terms with women and other producers to produce to satisfy some needs. Other private operators could also support with infrastructural development (warehousing, roads, bridges) to ease movement of people and food from producing areas to marketing centres and where they are needed most. Private sector may also support with business ideas and development. Printers may help with development of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials that may educate farmers and processors, and the general public in nutrition.

Civil society organizations (NGOs, CBOs, Trade Unions, individuals, women groups, farmers, FBOs and farmer groups) can play advocacy roles and campaign as networks. Production of food  alone will not tackle nutrition issues, education and linkage with other sectors is vital for nutrition security.   They could fund raise to support worthy course, and help to raise nutrition awareness.

Providing women with income generating activities helps to improve nutrition, and this could be done with support of private sector and linked to financial outlet. Women are good entrepreneurs if they receive training and have source of funding to expand their businesses. The incomes from their business go into supporting household food and nutrition security. Purchasing their items also help to increase their incomes for household nutrition.

Both the private sector and civil society can create incomes for the poor, do education and engage the government.

Governance: The state can create the enabling environment for both the CSOs and private sector to thrive, and work successfully to eliminate the canker of under-nutrition in our world. Civil society may raise accountability and transparent issues and hold government accountable. The civil society can also support with capacity building on human rights issues – dealing with both the right holders and duty bearers especially within the lower levels at the district levels. Civil society can support the districts in their development plans and help to advocate for budgetary support for farmers and the private sector to improve nutrition

Partnership: the private sector and civil society organisations as partners and collaborators can work effectively and efficiently to tackle food based approaches to under-nutrition. WFP’s food for work or food for asset and school feeding programs in food insecure communities (involving the local authority, traditional leaders who may release land for community work, farmers   involvement in food production and communities link with the district assemble etc, supplementary feeding centres for children and People living with HIV) are all examples of synergies in food partnerships. Civil society and private sector may work together in carting of food, and also supporting and working UN based institution like WFP, UNICEF, WHO and FAO to bring holistic approach to nutrition as these work with whole range of people and organisations to tackle nutrition.