The contribution of the private section and civil society to improve nutrition.
Based on my experience and knowledge from working with rural communities, there is a great and urgent need for collaboration among civil society, private sector and policy makers for success in improved nutrition:
Civil society being very much in touch with individuals and communities has the important task of sharing traditional and formal knowledge on food production and consumption of nutritious foods with rural households. The reason being that over time and with improvements in information and communication technologies, rural communities have access to all sorts of information including adverts on `good foods'. As a result, we have witnessed cases where mothers and other food providers harvest and sell nutritious traditional foods to purchase processed foods or snacks marketed as `good food'. I always refer to the case where mothers sell chicken, eggs and bananas to return home with bread and soda for their children. We need civil society and the private sector to collaborate in the marketing of nutritious foods.
The private sector has a social responsibility to maintain balance between business profits with achieving a health and wealth community: In cases where a large coorporation has made a discovery and markets their `good food' aggressively, they have a responsibility to boldly communicate the nutritional content and any side effect of the new food to consumers. That way, families will make their decisions and choices from an informed position. This is where civil society and government come with policies to regulate private sector.
The private sector can still make profits by identifying profitable markets for indigenous/local foods that are of high nutrtional value and encouraging local farmers to produce for consumption and extra for the market. Advise and encourage local producers to add value to their products, especially in packaging and marketing to meet the market needs: that way private sector is able to sell while households are able to produce nutritious foods for consumption and for the market - kill two birds with one stone.
Civil society and the private sector need to encourage Networks of food producers so that each community grows what they are best at in line with climatic conditions. Farmers willinging do this based on the knowledge that another farmer will producer the other crop that they will need. That way, the private sector will facilitate the marketing of the produce from different communities to meet the business and nutritional needs of all.
Civil society and policy makers to work with the private sector in the introduction of improved seed, etc to food producers. That way there will be enough monitoring in terms of affordability and nutritional value of new foods. In my opinion there is very little value and profit in introducing an improved seed to my grandparents when the seed requires a lot of inputs in terms of measuring the right amounts of seed to fertiliser, to water to sunshine to storage temperature; when they have spent decades perfecti The reason being that if they miss one stage, the whole crop is compromised; the easiest way to discourage adoption as once a crop of one adapter fails, rest assured that those within their network will listen to the word of mouth from the earlier adaptor.
Links and resources:
Earlier FSN Forum ICN2 discussions: