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Re: Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments

Lalita Bhattacharjee FAO, Bangladesh
20.02.2014
Lalita

Background and rationale

Poor diet affects the poor, middle class and the rich alike. To this end, one of the goals of responsible agriculture investments is  producing healthy foods that contributes to sustainable diets and health of individuals, households and the community at large. One of the keys to achieving this is a policy environment in which nutrition is better understood and valued.  

Objective, nature and scope

  • The principles would also need to recognize the role of updated, science- based dietary guidelines that are contextually appropriate and that need to be widely promoted for the renewed attention of policy makers, programmers, private sector, media and the consumers.
  • This is one of the essential pre requisites to enhance the supply and demand for good food choices from what is locally available and accessible. 
  • To this end, dietary assessment including ‘total diet studies’ can help influence food policy, while nutrition education using the results of these studies can stimulate a demand for judicious food choices. 

Food Security and Nutrition and the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security: Principle 1

  • The objectives are well outlined. In addition to improving access to and availability of sufficient, safe and nutritious foods…. there is a need for an explicit focus on improving the diets and nutritional status of young children (6 to 23 months of age), adolescent girls and women in addition to household members and communities on the whole.
  • Applications would need to also encompasses technical principles such as knowledge, skills, technology and confidence at the farmer’s levels to produce/process foods and reach out to markets; awareness and ability to understand how nutrition-linked investment can have substantial health and financial returns at the trader’s levels; and behavior change strategies for improving food and nutrition on a sustainable basis at the consumer levels.
  • Scientific documentation and nutrient analysis of indigenous and underutilized foods, seldom used parts of plants and functional foods are warranted. 

Economic and social issues: Principle 2

  • A renewed responsibility is needed among agricultural planners and policy makers to strike a balance between nutrition-linked value chains and an enabling environment for incentives in agriculture investments.  
  • Improved market structures in many of the fast developing countries are changing the way in which people access food.  Some of the nutritious crops (millets, whole grains), legumes, horticulture produce, small fish species and beneficial indigenous foods that used to feature in traditional dietaries, are now losing their place in markets in favor of some few and largely produced/ processed foods that are possibly more affordable but potentially less healthy. This is impacting on the diversity and nutritional quality of what is purchased, processed and consumed.
  • Agriculture investments from private and public sectors can therefore play a more significant role in enhancing a nutritious food supply in the market, which should be initiated right from primary production across the whole chain.
  • Investments should explicitly address healthy eating habits among children and adults; create access and demand for nutrient/micronutrient-rich local foods, increase vegetable and fruit intake, promote safe and environmentally friendly produce and packaging, nutrition education and enable better nutrient returns for the money spent.   

Cultural Issues: Principle 4

  • Investments should also encompass storage and conservation of seed banks, strengthening/building upon appropriate processing technologies, local small livestock breeds, small fish species and indigenous food systems unique to agro ecological and cultural contexts
  • Farmers, notably women farmers or women farmer groups should be mobilized as part of mainstream institutional arrangements and mechanisms for both income and nutrition relevant ventures
  • Consideration should be given to household allocation of resources, capital, knowledge, local agricultural technologies and time.  

Policy Coherence and Sector Development: Principle 5

  • Policy capacity strengthening would be a foremost priority that needs sustained attention. 
  • Policy principles and tools that reinforce the nutrition mandate of food and agriculture sectors, bridge the interface with health sectors, prioritize nutrition sensitive investments[1] with coordinated institutional arrangements for analysis and monitoring policy implementation[2] will need to be developed and elaborated according to country contexts. 
  • This should in turn serve to mobilize and enhance commitment for funding and resource allocation for agriculture investments from governments, development partners and the private sector so as to impact nutrition improvement on a truly sustainable basis.

Lalita Bhattacharjee, Nutritionist, National Food Policy Capacity Strengthening Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Bangladesh.


[1] Bangladesh Country Investment Plan for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition (2010 -2015)

[2] National Food Policy Plan of Action and Country Investment Plan, Monitoring Report 2013, FPMU, Ministry of Food.