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Re: Making agriculture work for nutrition: Prioritizing country-level action, research and support

02.10.2012
Final Year Economics Students (group 2)

In recent years, the focus among many international food, health and agricultural organizations has been on nutrition and its link to agriculture. With billions of people continuously suffering from lack of food security and malnutrition, these entities have recognized the vital role agriculture plays “as a supplier of food, a source of income, and an engine for growth to sustainably reduce malnutrition and ill-health for the world’s most vulnerable people.” (Agriculture, Nutrition, and Health: Connecting the Dots, 2011 Global Food Policy Report)

 

1.     If you were designing an agricultural investment programme, what are the top 5 things you would do to maximize its impact on nutrition?

a.      Firstly, it is recommended that an educational programme on nutrition be implemented in order to facilitate people’s voluntary intake of healthier food alternatives. This task can be accomplished through a combination of educational approaches, such as awareness campaigns, agro-food and nutrition workshops, and school visits. At the end of such programme, persons should be better equipped with the knowledge of improving food safety, choosing and consuming locally produced and nutrient-dense foods, understanding the nutritional requirements of different family members, etc. This will enable them to lead a healthier lifestyle where they can make better informed decisions for themselves and family members when it comes to their dietary intake.

b.     Increase production and market access of nutrient-dense foods to both urban and rural populace – Having succeeded in encouraging persons to lead a healthier lifestyle, we are now faced with increased demands for non-staple foods with high nutritious values, such as fruits and vegetables, in order to prevent or minimize the risk of micronutrient deficiencies. Therefore, increased production of locally-adapted nutrient-dense foods is highly recommended. However, this is insufficient to guarantee that everyone has access to such foods, unless proper infrastructure exists in order to meet the demands of the newly health-conscious population.

c.      Promoting organic agricultural production as it addresses regional challenges such as environmental, cultural and economic sustainability, health and food security. Most importantly, organic farming is seen as an eco-friendly approach that sustains the health of soils by using natural means of fertilizers which do not contain agrochemicals residues thereby, improving the nutritional intake of the crops. Organic production also relies on techniques such as crop rotationgreen manurecompost and biological pest control

d.     Promoting sustainable farming practices that are eco-friendly to avoid soil erosion of arable land which often times leads to lower crop yields, reduced income to farmers, shortages of nutrient-dense foods. If these concerns are not met it may lead to under nutrition especially in rural poor communities. Therefore, this calls for proper and effective management of natural resources which can result in soil fertility, crop rotation, greater productivity, improved adjustments to climate change, etc.

e.      Developing, as appropriate, a mechanism within which to monitor and evaluate the level of success/failure in improving nutrition through agriculture, for instance, creating the capacity for overlooking the environmental quality and health status of the population. Here research, monitoring and evaluation will be continuously conducted in order to facilitate changing conditions along the investment programme with an intended nutritional impact.

2.     To support the design and implementation of this programme, where would you like to see more research done, and why?

The literature on the need for effective institutions is endless. Nevertheless, even with the rationale out there we still have poor institutional framework in many nations. So the question remains, why is it that we continue to experience poor policy outcomes and shambled institutions in this age of information superhighway. It is believed that within Guyana this comes about because of the applicability of these models to our economy. Therefore, more research can be done on the political and social constraints within Guyana and countries of similar structure to formulate resolutions for existing poor institutional framework. Only then would we be able to see effective implementation of these programmes to achieve their fullest capacity in terms of maximizing its impact on nutrition.

3.     What can our institutions do to help country governments commit to action around your recommendations, and to help ensure implementation will be effective?

a.      Information asymmetry continues to be a huge issue. International institutions can continue to help by providing easy access to necessary information and reports since often times, poor policy responses are linked to inadequate information base.

b.     Consider the possibility of co-integration of the programme with other similar ongoing programmes, and also deeper engagement with the private sector and other value-chain actors; for a bigger pool of resources and a more drastic outcome.