Dear Moderators ( Jody and Leslie),
What an excellent and timely topic !
I am very much enlightened with all the expert views on the topic from around the world. I hope this effort will help our ideas to cross the our own boundary and reach the real actors of agriculture.
This is the time in our history, where nutrition has been given so much priority through many initiatives. One of them is recent Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Initiatives which has gained a lot of attention from all the stakeholders including the donor community. SUN has equally emphasized on nutrition specific as well as nutrition sensitive interventions. In this context, the topic is very much relevant.
Once again the multi-sectoral role has been re-emphasized and the role agriculture can play has also been amplified. However, the efforts are still running short to orient the agriculture sector in the direction of fulfilling nutritional goals. The traditional role of agriculture has almost been forgotten in agriculture plans and policies. There are a a lot of efforts in making agriculture more profitable through commercialization, value addition and other market related interventions.
As a result of advocacy efforts at international level, some of the countries ( as per my experience Nepal, Malawi and Uganda) countries have started adopting the term " food and nutrition security" in agriculture plans, policies and programmes. But in spirit, they have even deviated traditional "food security". The donors like World Bank and other are more interested in making agriculture more profitable not more nutrition-sensitive.
In addition, the following are some of the lackings in the developing countries especially in Asia and Africa:
1. The agricculture professionals are not well oriented on the importance of agriculture in solving the problem of malnutrition.
2. The agriculture extension system is not well- trained to deliver the knowledge and skill on making agriculture more nutrition sensitive.
3. The agriculture extension and health delivery system work separately, which completely overlooks the role of agriculture extension workers in sustainable solution of malnutrition.
4. The whole agriculture system has inadequate knowledge base on how to make the agricultural programmes and projects more nutrition friendly.
5. The governments and the international actors for nutrition ( in most cases UN-UNICEF) has partnership with the health system, which has very less reach to agriculture system.
What can be done to make the agriculture and food system more nutrition sensitive ? Here are some points, these are not evidence supported arguments, but these are the experience based readings :
At Policy Level :
1. Governments should have a broader food and nutrition policy , where agriculture can be a part of the whole policy framework.
2. Wide participation of various stakeholders in the process of formulating policies.
3. International agencies including UN, should facilitate the process, build capacity and support but not create dependency.
4. The donors like world bank should also support projects with agricultural diversification not only for profitability but also for better nutritional outcomes
5. The industry should be encouraged and promoted for producing more nutritious products rather than empty calorie, fashioned junk foods.
At Implementation level :
6. Orientation, training of the agriculture cadres from top to the grassroots on programming for nutrition sensitive agriculture.
7. Training of farmers, themselves on making agriculture more nutritious by using innovative techniques such as rotational cropping, combinaiton of agriculutre and livestock, inter-cropping( beans in banana plantation, soybeans and beans with maize etc.)
8. The farmers should be educated not only the marketability of the particular crop but also the nutritional importance of it.
9. Nutrition education should be intensified through all the possible channels- schools, mass media etc. so that the demand for nutritionally important agriculture produce will be increased.
10. Nutrition Education is very important ( as highlighted by FAO Colleagues) for all the projects, even the agricultural projects with the objectives of income generation.
11. Capacity building of agriculture extension workers not only on better farming but also on post harvest handling, processing and storage.
12. Academic institutions should offer courses education which promotes sustainable food and agriculture based interventions.
13. A greater partnership at least among agriculture, health and academia, if possible, education, local development.
14. Involvement of NGOs and CBOs in policy as well as other implementation level dialogues.
15. Private sector has an important role to play through social corporate responsibility by making their business more profitable and creating more employment and at the same time making it more nutrition friendly.
16.The children are the future of the nation. Involving children at schools as a change agents for nutrition sensitive agriculture will be very effective in adopting new agricultural and other food related practices.
These are not the exhaustive list but some triggering ideas, which can be helpful in keeping agriculture on track so that it not only provides livelihoods for millions poor farmers, makes agriculture more profitable, creates more employment, earns foreign exchange, at the same time if planned a little bit carefully helps solve the problem of malnutrition.
Now or never. Time has come, let's act now at our level and remind the policy makers of the conventional role of agriculture, make it a little bit of nutritious. No problem agriculture can earn more money, let's educate the farmers to spend wisely for the nutrition of the family.
Once again, I would like to thank the moderators and wish all the success in raising this issue to a greater height.
All the best,
Senior Food Research Officer
Department of Food Technology and Quality Control
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The FSN Forum is supported by the project Coherent food security responses: incorporating right to food into global and regional food security initiatives.