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Re: What is the role of social relations and networks in household food security and nutrition?

Dr. Eileen Omosa Researcher at We Grow Ideas, Canada
06.11.2013
Eileen

This was my first and it became a FIRST, thanks to each one of you.

In the past I have made contributions to on-line discussions, but this was the first time I initiated a topic and read through all the articles contributed to the discussion. The reason I remembered to log into http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/forum/discussions/networks-for-FS at least four times each day was to read and learn from your rich and captivating experiences. I can already feel the new knowledge pushing me to the field to put into practice some of the great ideas we have shared. Thanks to your individual contributions, many of us have learnt something new about social relations, networks, food security and nutrition, including:

  • Networks help us understand our communities, our food habits and how to care for one another.
  • Through networks and strong social relations, members get to share risks, thus spread it thin and in the process build inclusive communities void of situations of isolation and vulnerability.
  • Strong social relations and networks are important vehicles for education and for sharing information and best practices on food security and nutrition.
  • There are many success case studies out there; all we need do is continue to network long after the on-line discussion is closed.
  • Social relations and networks promote the growth of income and help strengthen economic security; factors critical for the attainment of food security.
  • Enables policy-makers and development practitioners to appreciate the dynamics of social differentiation and their consequences to food security and nutrition.
  • Strong social relations and networks are relevant to both the needy and able in any society – as channels through which the able give and those in need receive.
  • A public-private partnership between financial institutions and government can aid in the alleviation of challenges faced by farmers, to realize food security.
  • Strong and diverse networks encourage and strengthen agricultural extension agents to share integrated messages with individuals and groups i.e. share information on nutrition, technology transfer, diversification of products (crops and animals) and the benefits of diversifying and diversified diets.
  • Gender dimensions of social relations: women as majority of cultivators and providers of food to families and are depositories of knowledge on food and nutrition, therefore potential educators, and channels through which to transmit valuable knowledge from one generation to another.
  • Social relations and networks in food and nutritional security are important but under practiced and taken for granted in our day to day food endeavours.
  • While some of you pointed out a decrease in social relations and networks with increased urbanization; others differed, noting that social relations and networks are relevant and practiced in both rural and urban settings. Strong relations and networks are still alive in urban settings – when auntie travels across town to deliver a basket of the iron-rich chinsaga vegetables she bought from the grocery store after her friend, a clerk at the store called to inform her that the occasional vegetable was available on that day. Or a friend informs followers on social media of the upcoming farmers’ market in the city.

As I noted at the very beginning of our discussions, Mama was able to access the best ingredients to prepare the infant’s nutritious weaning food, thanks to her good social relations and networks, which she still works hard to sustain. Mama’s ability to relate with people both at the social and market levels is sometimes all it takes to achieve food and nutritional security.

I conclude by saying that `the market is one place through which to satisfy our food security and nutritional needs, but strong social relations and network is where the action starts.’

On my own behalf and that of fellow discussants, we say a big thank you, gracias, merci to the organizers and facilitators of the overall discussion list at FAO.

Eileen Omosa