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The contribution of the private sector and civil society to improve nutrition

As part of the preparations leading up to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), a Preparatory Technical Meeting is to be held at FAO Headquarters from 13 to 15 November 2013. More information is available at: http://www.fao.org/food/nutritional-policies-strategies/icn2/en.

To feed into and inform this meeting, a series of online discussions are being held on selected thematic areas. This online discussion “The contribution  of the private sector and civil society to improve nutrition” invites you to share evidence and exchange views on how the private sector and civil society can contribute to improving diets and raising levels of nutrition, particularly of the poorest and most nutritionally vulnerable, as well as ways to improve monitoring and evaluation.

For many of us, the ICN2 may be the only opportunity in our lifetime to focus world attention on nutrition and thereby reach agreement on what needs to be done to improve nutrition. If ‘better access to better food and nutrition for more people’ is an objective we can all agree upon, how can we achieve it and what is required individually and collectively from each sector?

It is clear the world must produce enough food in quantity and in quality in terms of variety, diversity, safety and nutrient content to feed a population of over 9 billion by 2050. How is this to be done sustainably and meet the zero hunger target? In the last FSN Forum discussions, it was agreed that to counter malnutrition we need nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems (http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/forum/discussions/nutrition-enhancing-agriculture) that provide diverse and healthy diets. The role of social safety nets (http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/forum/discussions/social-protection-and-nutrition) in protecting nutrition is also recognized as are direct measures targeted at reducing stunting and addressing acute malnutrition.

If we consider food and nutrition insecurity essentially as a problem of poverty, the strategy to counter this insecurity needs to be founded  on inclusive broad based development and sustainable economic growth. Indeed the World Bank reminds us that investing in nutrition makes sense from an economic point of view as every dollar invested generates a return of up to $US30 and FAO's report on The State of Food and Agriculture 2013 estimates an annual cost of malnutrition of $US500 per person! Thus it is clear that economic development is fundamentally important in the combat against hunger and poverty.

Farmers, farmers’ associations and farmers’ cooperatives are key to feeding the world. Smallholder farmers as entrepreneurs that invest and innovate, are the basis for agricultural development that can effectively tackle poverty, hunger and malnutrition. The private sector therefore has a key role to play in developing sustainable agriculture and delivering nutrition for all people. As governments cannot feed people on a sustainable basis, they need to deal with structural conditions which constrain development while at the same time promote policies which will enable the the private sector to continue to innovate and invest in the food and agriculture sector.  This includes supporting local business development.

Similarly, a thorough involvement of civil society organizations (including NGOs, social movements and community-based organizations), especially those representing the sectors of the population that are most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition (among others: small food producers and landless farmers, agricultural workers, fishers and fish workers, pastoralists and herders, forest dwellers, ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples, women and youth), is key to ensure coordination, ownership, effectiveness and accountability of initiatives aimed at improving nutrition. A proactive effort to stimulate the participation of civil society representatives so as to have a balanced representation in terms of constituencies, type of organization, geographic distribution, gender and age is of crucial importance.

All sectors must work together for this common goal. Private companies, civil society, knowledge institutions and government (the golden quadrant) need to agree upon finding effective and efficient policies, sustainable practices and food solutions to reach the underserved consumer. At the same time agro-food solutions are required that provide foods which are nutritious, healthy and respond to consumer demand.

Three key actions are needed to result in ‘better access of better food and nutrition for more people’: 1. connect agriculture, food and nutrition at all levels; 2. invest in new ideas and delivery models; and 3. align agendas (including a One UN agenda on nutrition) and work together on the Zero Hunger Challenge . Make zero hunger a cross-sector objective and ensure the post-2015 MDG agenda includes nutrition security as an explicit part of food security and vice versa.

We invite you to focus your comments on this note as well as on the core background and expert papers and materials for the ICN2 made available for this discussion and on the following four sets of questions:

  • Policy issues: What role can the private sector and civil society play in designing and implementing policies that make agriculture and food systems more nutrition-enhancing? What are the knowledge gaps?
  • Programme issues: What have been the success stories and lessons learned by the private sector and civil society in implementing nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems programmes at country level? How can the impact of such programmes on food consumption and nutrition be monitored?
  • Governance:What are the changes needed to make sure that the private sector and civil society are involved in building effective and sustainable governance mechanisms related to agriculture, food systems and nutrition?
  • Partnerships: What contribution can the private sector and civil society make for working across sectors and building strong linkages between food and agriculture, social protection, employment, health, education and other key sectors? How can the ‘golden quadrant’ be managed to create and scale up sustainable partnerships? What are examples of projects working jointly with the private sector, civil society, governments under a UN-wide initiative (like SUN, ZHC, etc…)?

The outcome of this online discussion will be used to enrich the discussions at the preparatory technical meeting on 13-15 November 2013 and thereby feed into and inform the main high level ICN2 event in 2014.

We thank you in advance for your time and for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us.

We look forward to your contributions.

The facilitators:

Robynne Anderson

Etienne du Vachat

find out more about the facilitators here

This discussion is now closed. Please contact fsn-moderator@fao.org for any further information.

Mr. Solomon Mkumbwa Columbia Global Centres Africa, Kenya
27.09.2013
Solomon

Good nutrition is the balance of nutrients intake against body demands, where the imbalance leads to either 'undernutrition' or 'overnutrition' - both of which are public health concerns.

Private sector as the 'engine of economic growth' is key creating jobs that can afford the poor a living wage, specifically, food purchasing power, a necessary but not sufficient condition for good nutrition. In addition, the private sector engaged in food value chain renders direct services in food production, distribution, and retail - making food conveniently available to consumers - another important necessary but not sufficient condition for good nutrition.

While we recognize their (private sector actors) important contributions to nutrition, we should be cognizant that their primary objective is profit maximization. As such, the private sector will be inclined towards supplying food commodities being demanded on the market, regardless of food diversity concerns from nutrition standpoint. It is, therefore, important that consumers know the food nutrients, quality and safety standards they need and that their demand for the 'safe, nutritious and diversified foods' is reflected in the market supply. In this regard, a consumers’ rights protection civil society organization (CSO) is key in educating its members, and advocating for adherence to the food quality and safety standards as set by the appropriate national authorities.

Again, in pursuit of cutting down business costs, so that they can remain in business or indeed mere hunger for more profits, private sector actors may pay their workers below the living wage rates. With low wages, the poor families cannot afford a nutritious diet, even if they have adequate knowledge of good nutrition. This calls for workers’ rights protection civil society organization such as the trade unions to come into play.

Both consumers’ and workers’ rights protection CSOs can employ various strategies to achieve their goals – including lobbying for legislation of minimum wage, enactment of food labeling and standards checks. They may also directly facilitate dialogues between workers and employers to respond to short terms food market price inflationary activities. They may negotiate with government, to remove or reduce taxes on certain nutritious foods to promote their consumption. They may facilitate tripartite dialogues between the government, private sector and CSOs in finding lasting solutions to challenges facing their members (that it, workers or consumers).

On the other hand, CSOs in the form of international NGOs are best suited and play an important life-saving role in supporting consumption failure among victims of disasters, where local relief response capabilities are overwhelmed or inadequate. The INGOs may also offer capacity development support to local CSOs, without necessarily replacing their role. Local CSOs should be supported to develop and grow as they have appropriate legitimacy in addressing the structural causes of poor nutrition, through promotion of nutrition rights of their members. INGOs on the other hand should play a more indirect capacity development of local CSOs role, as they (INGOs) will not be there for all the time, that is, most INGO projects are donor funded short term in nature.

Anna Antwi GD Resource Center (development NGO), Ghana
27.09.2013
Anna

Both the private sector and civil society including their organisations can contribute positively to nutrition outcomes. However we should guard against companies trying to hide behind the poor to take advantage of their situation to exploit the under-nourished. Again, both the private sector and civil society organisations can work effectively as individual entities, as collaborators and also partners with the government to enhance nutrition.

Policy: National policies should support public-private partnership in a way that production of nutritional foods would be much cheaper and easily accessible to all. The private sector majority of who are farmers in developing countries may contribute in various ways. Companies (through their corporate social responsibility) should easily identify with nutrition problems and provide support if the government sees it as a priority. The companies may support and encourage farmers (through access to inputs, providing extension services/ technology dissemination, providing capacity building, introducing them to new varieties etc) to boost production, link them to market source. Some companies may also encourage farmers (with support of civil society) to form and strengthen their groups to be linked to an aggregator or market outlet. The private sector can also act as  a nucleus farmer or contract farmer. Some private sector operators can support and link farmers up with financial institutions for easy access to the market. These activities (or programs) should have clear policy guidelines that will encourage the private sector to operate. The bottom line is a win-win for all stakeholders. The policy should create a free and conducive environment for private sector and civil society to work. Civil society is best in advocacy and drawing policy makers attention to policy and implementation gaps. Since they operate at various levels and in networks, they can also link up to bring best practices, make their voices heard.

Programme: Farmers and farmer groups  as private sector may produce to respond to specific needs – for example in high Vitamin A deficient areas, farmers could be supported to produce crops such as orange flesh sweet potato (OFSP) and civil society may educate the populace in Vitamin A deficiencies, causes, prevention and remedies or solutions using food based approaches. The private sector and civil society may support and educate the population on post harvest loss, handling, food processing, preservation, storage, utilization and marketing. Women and girls could also receive education from both private sector and civil society on various issues relating to production, health care, hygiene, food safety and handling. Private sector could establish industries or cottage industries dealing with value addition along the chain, processing etc.

Land owners could go into terms with women and other producers to produce to satisfy some needs. Other private operators could also support with infrastructural development (warehousing, roads, bridges) to ease movement of people and food from producing areas to marketing centres and where they are needed most. Private sector may also support with business ideas and development. Printers may help with development of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials that may educate farmers and processors, and the general public in nutrition.

Civil society organizations (NGOs, CBOs, Trade Unions, individuals, women groups, farmers, FBOs and farmer groups) can play advocacy roles and campaign as networks. Production of food  alone will not tackle nutrition issues, education and linkage with other sectors is vital for nutrition security.   They could fund raise to support worthy course, and help to raise nutrition awareness.

Providing women with income generating activities helps to improve nutrition, and this could be done with support of private sector and linked to financial outlet. Women are good entrepreneurs if they receive training and have source of funding to expand their businesses. The incomes from their business go into supporting household food and nutrition security. Purchasing their items also help to increase their incomes for household nutrition.

Both the private sector and civil society can create incomes for the poor, do education and engage the government.

Governance: The state can create the enabling environment for both the CSOs and private sector to thrive, and work successfully to eliminate the canker of under-nutrition in our world. Civil society may raise accountability and transparent issues and hold government accountable. The civil society can also support with capacity building on human rights issues – dealing with both the right holders and duty bearers especially within the lower levels at the district levels. Civil society can support the districts in their development plans and help to advocate for budgetary support for farmers and the private sector to improve nutrition

Partnership: the private sector and civil society organisations as partners and collaborators can work effectively and efficiently to tackle food based approaches to under-nutrition. WFP’s food for work or food for asset and school feeding programs in food insecure communities (involving the local authority, traditional leaders who may release land for community work, farmers   involvement in food production and communities link with the district assemble etc, supplementary feeding centres for children and People living with HIV) are all examples of synergies in food partnerships. Civil society and private sector may work together in carting of food, and also supporting and working UN based institution like WFP, UNICEF, WHO and FAO to bring holistic approach to nutrition as these work with whole range of people and organisations to tackle nutrition.

UGAgri Group7 University of Guyana, Guyana
27.09.2013
UGAgri

Just reading though the contributions on this discussion boggles our minds in the range of ideas and opinions that have arisen from commentators across the world. And, we are grateful for the dimensions they have added to our thinking since the group’s last post two weeks ago.

 The facilitators mentioned, “If we consider food and nutrition insecurity essentially as a problem of poverty, the strategy to counter this insecurity needs to be founded on inclusive broad- based development and sustainable economic growth.” Taken at a first glance, it is relatively easy to reconcile this with the teachings of free-enterprise economics in which the implicit story is that a “rising tide lifts all boats.” Then, the contribution of the private sector to nutrition seems intuitive and the idea that we need to host a global dialogue to state the obvious seems a bit perplexing. It is especially at odds with the facilitators’ comment that “Farmers, farmers’ associations and farmers’ cooperatives are key to feeding the world,” because these associations are quite different from the mainstream abstract of the “private sector” and so, had seemed to be part of a different discussion.

That discussion is one on rural development, the use of common resources and food sovereignty. What this means to us is that development must be facilitated in rural communities where the most vulnerable to malnutrition and nutrition-related diseases are concentrated. This specifically means infrastructural support- including regular access to potable water and a stable supply of energy- and policies-- like registering land and securing property rights for farmers--that protect these vulnerable communities from land-grabbing among other opportunistic consequences of corruption and wider political instability in the agri. sector. Oxfam’s 2012 report, ‘Our Land, Our Lives’, mirrors this concept of smallholder farmers being the centre of agricultural development that will then allow them to control their own livelihoods and nutrition.

UGAgri Group 7

Ms. Laurence Rycken International Dairy Federation, Belgium
26.09.2013
Laurence

The International Dairy Federation (IDF) appreciates the opportunity to contribute to this online discussion on “The contribution of the private sector and civil society to improve nutrition”. Founded in 1903, IDF is the leading source of scientific and technical expertise for all stakeholders of the dairy chain. IDF is committed to furthering current knowledge and science on a wide range of issues by triggering state of the art projects across the dairy chain.

One of the questions posed is to comment on the core background and expert papers and materials for the ICN2. Although mostly excellent, we have some concerns about one of the conclusions/statements in 'Leveraging agriculture and food systems for healthier diets and non-communicable disease prevention: the need for policy coherence' by Hawkes C and colleagues.  On page 22 it states that in relation to dairy products (along with highly processed foods and meats) 'Increasing consumption of these foods has been associated with Non-Communicable Diseases.' 

We believe this is not fully representative of the available scientific evidence for dairy foods and NCDs.  For example the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines acknowledge the evidence for the health benefits of consumption of milk, yogurt and cheese has strengthened since the 2003 edition of the dietary guidelines[1] and states that:

Consumption of milk, yogurt and cheese can protect us against heart disease and stroke, can reduce our risk of high blood pressure and some cancers, may reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes and may contribute to stronger bones

 

In relation to the question  ‘What role can the private sector and civil society play in designing and implementing policies that make agriculture and food systems more nutrition-enhancing?’ we would like to say that international dairy organisations such as IDF and national dairy food organisations can play a role in the development of nutrition policy, such as dietary guidelines. Their staff has the specialist expertise required to assist policy makers in using the latest scientific literature on dairy foods and health.  Also, many national dairy organisations fund research to fill gaps in knowledge relating to the impact of dairy consumption on health.


[1] National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines Summary, Pg 23. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council. 

 

Etienne du Vachat facilitator of the discussion, France
26.09.2013
FSN Forum

The exchanges have been going on for three weeks and I have to say it has really been a lively discussion and it has already tackled an impressive number of topics, with a quite a variety of points of views. I would very much urge you to share more of your insights and ideas on the forum, given the importance of the issues at stake. In particular, there are a number of issues that have not been tackled so much yet and I would very much like to see more of your reflections about these:

- First of all, I feel our discussion has very much focused on agriculture production as growing crops but that not enough attention been on other agricultural activities, such as livestock production, fisheries and forests, for instance, three sectors whose contributions to good nutrition are huge. Please do not hesitate to share more stories and examples from this broader agriculture perspective!

- Similarly, there is not one but different forms of malnutrition. They all need to be fought although they don’t always necessarily require the same interventions and policy tools. Some solutions are common but there are also (prevention and treatment) solutions that are specific to wasting, stunting, different micronutrient deficiencies, overweight, obesity, etc., and also specific to countries or local contexts depending on the causes of malnutrition. I hope you can also contribute to the discussion from this point of view…

- Many contributions have explicitly or indirectly mentioned the importance of raising citizens and consumers’ awareness about healthy diets and good nutrition and related behaviors. Would that also be possible to share more good stories and examples about (successful) behavior change strategies? We know that such strategies are highly context-specific but it is always inspiring to hear what has been working from different parts of the world and different contexts…

- We know women have a key role to play to raise levels of nutrition… We also know that the workload of women and gender imbalances in decision-making power (such as on household income allocation) strongly affect nutrition. It would be very interesting to read more about how civil society organisations and private sector actors are responding to this crucial issue.

- In terms of private sector actors, some contributions have distinguished agricultural companies (involved in agricultural production and working with farmers or agricultural workers) and food companies (producing food products further down the value chain and more in relation with consumers). However, there are numerous actors in between that also deserve our attention to make agriculture systems more nutrition-sensitive, from the traders to the manufacturers and processers up to the retailers, etc. Some companies are also vertically integrated along the whole food chain - does this position give them more opportunities to enhance (or to neglect) the nutrition potential of their products at different steps? Also, many private sector companies from other sectors are involved in activities that clearly have an impact on nutrition, such as companies providing water and sanitation facilities, pharmaceutical companies, etc.

- The issue of environmental sustainability has been largely tackled, from the sustainability of production (with agroecology practices, for instance) to that of the whole food systems, up to the sustainability of diets. Some countries have recently moved forward to establish sustainable dietary guidelines. I was wondering whether CSOs and/or private sector companies which have been involved in or have analyzed such processes would be in a position to share their views: how was it developed? what were the different positions? is it targeting both food producers and consumers? how far does it regulate the action of the (ultra-)processed food industries? how will it be implemented and monitored?

- The price of food has been focusing the attention of national decision makers for centuries. The recent increases and higher volatility of food prices have also lead to many initiatives at national and global levels. Nutritious, healthy foods and diets tend to be more expensive for family budget. The most vulnerable, who are more affected by under-nutrition, are also spending a higher proportion of their income on food. Thus rising food prices represent a clear threat to the access to quality, nutritious diets for the family members that need it most. However, the link between the level of food prices and the prevalence under-nutrition is not easy to establish. Are there recent worth sharing experiences from civil society or private sector on witnessing, assessing and/or combating this?

- This forum has also the goal to provide inputs for the ICN2 conference. Two recent contributions have suggested important issues (such as rights-based approach to nutrition, trade, governance and regulation of conflict of interests in the nutrition sector) that would have to be discussed at the 2014 conference, as well as during the preparatory 2013 technical meeting. You can find the draft agenda of the preparatory ICN2 meeting here (http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/agn/pdf/ProvProg_PTMN_template___2_.pdf). There are already spaces to discuss topics such as partnerships and governance (at country level), influence of agro-food policies, the issue of policy coherence, etc. Please do share more of your views on this agenda!

- Finally, I would like to read more contributions on the question (underlined in the introductory text) of monitoring the impacts of agricultural programmes on food consumption and nutrition. Are there experiences from CSO or PS companies you would like to share? Clearly, we need to build strong evidence of the effectiveness and cost efficiency of our actions and not base our decisions on ideological assumptions or theory only. Although, this is clear that different forms of evidence are needed and can complement each other, as recently underlined by P. Pinstrup-Andersen on his comment of the Lancet article on nutrition-sensitive interventions (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2813%2961053-3/fulltext?_eventId=login) as well as on L. Haddad’s blog (“the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence” http://www.developmenthorizons.com/2013/07/ids-transforming-nutrition-summer.html)

Hoping to read exciting new contributions in the next days of this discussion!

Etienne

Rahul Goswami Centre for Communication and Development Studies / Economic Research ...
26.09.2013
Rahul

Dear FSN Global Forum members, FAO forum administrators and facilitators, thank you for providing the opportunity to comment on the subject, 'The contribution of the private sector and civil society to improve nutrition', which will constitute part of the preparations leading up to the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2).

As has been pointed out elsewhere amongst the contributions, a separation of 'private sector' and 'civil society' would likely have led to contributions that provided a greater degree of insight into the distinct roles of each of these groups, for they are (and should remain) quite different from one another.

I will extract some of the assumptions and statements in the guiding paragraphs which I think need close examination, and comment on these.

1) The topic text said: "It is clear the world must produce enough food in quantity and in quality in terms of variety, diversity, safety and nutrient content to feed a population of over 9 billion by 2050. How is this to be done sustainably and meet the zero hunger target?"

I will advise and urge forum administrators, facilitators and members alike to avoid using the "9 billion by 2050" (or variations thereof) metric. Not the FAO nor any global development agency, not any single country nor any group of countries, let alone any of us, reckon with food provisioning at this scale. All those on this forum I am sure work in local or sub-regional administrations, and if any FSN forum member has to plan for the population of a province of, let's say 2.5 million people (or a city with a similarly-sized number of residents) it would I think be out of the ordinary. Hence there is not, and never will be, a "we" who will feed this number. As long as we are able to help it, many of them will feed themselves, locally, nutritiously, affordably and with all the cultural variety and diversity you mention. Food companies can and do have overextending ambitions when it comes to numbers, but this I will take up below.

2) The topic text said: "In the last FSN Forum discussions, it was agreed that to counter malnutrition we need nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems that provide diverse and healthy diets. The role of social safety nets in protecting nutrition is also recognized as are direct measures targeted at reducing stunting and addressing acute malnutrition."

As to the first assertion, I doubt we can say there was agreement (I did not agree with the thesis provided as the topic text). There is a need for FAO and fora such as this to steer well clear of conflating at every opportunity the terms 'agriculture' and 'nutrition' into a single compound description, for continuing to do so is likely to turn the perception of agriculture as most of us commonly know and recognise it into a subordinate sort of activity, inadequate to feed people satisfactorily. So let us not foster the popularisation of a new term that can be spun by public relations firms (with the food multinationals as their clients) as a technological code for better food.

As to the second, concerning social safety nets, the recognition to which you refer may be found in a limited sense in the international circuits that have by now been provided to evangelise this method. Most instances of 'social safety nets' are cash or benefit transfers to populations comprising either rural or urban poor, and who have systematically been disempowered and disenfranchised from making and exercising their choices of what to grow and what to eat. As the experience with the cash transfer for food programme in the USA has shown, supplying money to poorly fed households results in ever greater quantities of junk food being purchased, with all the attendant health risks.

3) The topic text said: "If we consider food and nutrition insecurity essentially as a problem of poverty, the strategy to counter this insecurity needs to be founded on inclusive broad based development and sustainable economic growth. Indeed the World Bank reminds us that investing in nutrition makes sense from an economic point of view as every dollar invested generates a return of up to $US30 ..."

On the other hand, we may (and I do) consider food and nutrition insecurity as a problem of the sort of ill-conceived macro-economics fostered by the World Bank (and the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the African Development Bank). In July 2013 the World Bank's report, 'Securing Africa's Land for Shared Prosperity', advised a ten-step program to "boost governance", "step up comprehensive policy reforms" and "accelerate shared and sustained growth for poverty reduction" in sub-Saharan Africa. The report outlined a programme aimed at "scaling-up land administration" in sub-Saharan Africa. Concealed behind these assertions was the World Bank's familiar paradigm of enhancing efficiency by "transferring land from less to more productive users at low cost" - and those more productive users are the private sector.

I think there is a very good reason why La Vía Campesina International, the global network of rural organisations, has begun a new worldwide action plan based on small-scale farming and agro-ecology, food sovereignty, and self-determination of communities - none of which has any connection with the return-on-investment example given by the World Bank. There is also a good reason why La Vía Campesina is reaffirming its stance against transnational corporations, industrial agriculture and agri-business (i.e., the private sector).

4) The topic text said: "Farmers, farmers’ associations and farmers’ cooperatives are key to feeding the world." You have my complete agreement with that statement. In its 2012 report 'Our Land, Our Lives', Oxfam deals with the type of smallholder farming households and communities that you must refer to. Debunking the myth of Africa's "unused land", the Oxfam report showing that most areas targeted by land deals were previously used for small-scale farming, grazing and common resources exploitation by local communities.

5) The topic text said: "As governments cannot feed people on a sustainable basis, they need to deal with structural conditions which constrain development while at the same time promote policies which will enable the private sector to continue to innovate and invest in the food and agriculture sector."

Governments are sovereign entities and exist, for better or worse, as the result of a contract between themselves and their citizens. I must advise that it is not for this forum to generalise that "governments cannot feed people on a sustainable basis" or that governments "need to deal with structural conditions which constrain development ..." We are not here to adjudicate between the many manifestations of governance and applaud those of them which are devoted to the promotion of private sector activity in the cultivation of primary crops and the provision of food to the population from those crops.

Let us recall that in 2007 an important report - perhaps the most important one thus far - emerged from the multilateral system, and this was the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), with contributions from experts from over 100 countries (and endorsed by nearly 60 countries). The IAASTD report concluded that "business as usual is not an option" and argued with a collective authority that was not seen before for a shift toward agro-ecological approaches, to make this shift urgently as it is necessary for food security and climate resilience.

Remember also that in the IAASTD were a number of references to the role of the government in ensuring that this shift is made keeping in mind the need for equality, social justice and people-centric development. What the authors of the IAASTD urged for was transformative changes needed in our food, agriculture and trade systems in order to increase diversity on farms, reduce our use of fertiliser and other inputs, support smallholder farmers and create strong local food systems.

Now re-examine the topic text of "feed people on a sustainable basis", "deal with structural conditions which constrain development" and "promote policies which will enable the private sector to continue to innovate and invest in the food and agriculture sector".

Six years after the IAASTD, the Trade and Environment Report 2013 of the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recommends a rapid and significant shift away from "conventional, monoculture-based… industrial production" of food that depends heavily on external inputs such as fertiliser, agro-chemicals, and concentrate feed. Titled 'Wake Up Before it is Too Late', the UNCTAD report has said the goal should be "mosaics of sustainable regenerative production systems that also considerably improve the productivity of small-scale farmers and foster rural development", and includes in-depth sections on the shift toward more sustainable, resilient agriculture; livestock production and climate change; the importance of public sector research and extension; the role of land use; and the role of reforming global trade rules. Unfortunately, heedless of the mass of evidence marshalled in the IAASTD business as usual has largely continued. Will the new UNCTAD report be similarly ignored by the private sector (intent on pursuing the prescribed return-on-investment from 'nutrition-enhancing agriculture') and pliant governments? Or might it instead lead to a much-needed policy transformation? We shall have to wait and see.

6) The topic text said: "A thorough involvement of civil society organisations ... is key to ensure coordination, ownership, effectiveness and accountability of initiatives aimed at improving nutrition."

A cursory reading of the behaviour and approach on the ground of many transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises reads like a roster of the devastation of livelihoods, of territories and of the environment of the communities in which they pursue business and profit. For the most part, the private sector hastens the commodification of essential services and of nature itself. In so doing, they can and do violate or are complicit in violations of human rights and labour rights, they erode the basis of food sovereignty, pollute water sources and lands, and plunder natural resources.

That is why the 'Vienna + 20 CSO Conference', held in June 2013, to address current challenges for human rights, called on countries to urgently develop and institute binding systems of international regulation and norms for TNCs. States have the obligation to ensure, by establishing strong legal systems of accountability for violations of rights and effective remedy and justice for all affected people, including along the food supply chain.

The reading is shocking, dismal and everything else in between: eleven peasants and six policemen killed. 13 peasants prosecuted, and more than 50 incriminated in the course of one of the most violent land conflicts in Paraguay’s recent history; fisherwomen, men and children who have been deprived of their access to Lake Victoria in Uganda threatened with being shot by private security guards if they cross the borders established by investors who claim to have 'bought' the lake; female workers of big food retailers who are put under surveillance, sexually harassed at their workplace and underpaid in the USA; pastoralists who are trying to survive the consequences of the destruction of their habitat due to mining activities in Mongolia. These dreadful examples are but a few of the testimonies of human rights’ violations and abuses that demonstrate the increasing trend towards criminalising social movements defending food sovereignty all over the world.

However even this sparse and scattered information has been enough for UN monitoring bodies and defenders - such as the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights - to state that the second most vulnerable group of human rights’ defenders are those working on land, natural resources and environmental issues, and these you will find are central to food cultivation. The International Labour Organization has also reported that the incidence of bonded and slave labour is particularly high in certain workplaces in the food chain - such as big plantations, industrial slaughterhouses and trawlers. Remedying these violations is what I am reading in your statement of the "thorough involvement of civil society organisations" and "accountability".

Thank you and regards, Rahul Goswami

agri econs5 University of Guyana, Guyana
26.09.2013
agri

Hydroponics in Guyana ensuring food security through environmentally friendly agricultural techniques

“One people One nation One destiny”

In their drive to create vibrant housing schemes the Government of Guyana has chosen to use arable agricultural lands along the Low Coastal Plain. As result, the farming of produce has an increased opportunity cost. Thus, for farming to remain a successful venture and a crucial one necessary for population growth and sustenance the use of various agricultural techniques can be ventured / explored.

One  agricultural technique is hydroponics which remains a viable alternative as the coastal plains are being “developed” with real estate. In the low coastal plain various agricultural techniques must be pursued to ensure soil conservation of the remaining arable lands. Hydroponics is the answer because it does not require the use of arable land.  On the other hand, it requires a saltine mineral solution to support the growth of crops instead of soil (“soiless cultivation”).Thus, it is a good substitute with the demand for housing increasing on the low coastal plain.It is evident that farms can gravitate towards a less developed area which the hydroponic technique can strive and produce fresh produce year round.

 

 Hydroponics should be considered because there exists many factors which adversely affect the production of crop and food production in open field areas:

·         Increasing ultraviolet radiation.

·         Decreasing fresh water supplies and water quality.

·         Increasing top soil erosion and soil degradation.

·          Increasing resistance of insect pests and plant diseases to traditional chemical controls.

·          A convergence of natural cycles leading to extreme weather conditions.[1]
 

The need to conserve arable land on the Coast is of utter importance since most crops that are exported must leave via Georgetown therefore it would be more cost effective for farmers to have their farms near the coast to reduce transportation cost. With hydroponics cash crops that were once grown using arable land can now be grown using air and a mineral water solution on any kind of flat surface.  Because of this, useful agricultural lands are now available for crops such as rice which cannot be grown using “soilless cultivation”.

Moreover hydroponics has an additional environmental benefit- it reduces the chances of water pollution. The sources of water pollution are usually associated with farming activities originating  mainly from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides with the run-off from these chemicals.As a result water ways surrounding farmlands are contaminated.  When hydroponics is used instead this “run-off” is avoided because all the necessary minerals and nutrients needed to support plant growth is administered directly to the plant root. The use of hydroponics in the cultivation of crops eliminates the chances of E-coli contamination since this issue is usually associated with improperly composted manures and irrigation water flowing through nearby cattle farms and hydroponics requires no irrigation and manure given that this method utilizes soilless cultivation.

Although hydroponics may use additional minerals in cultivating crops, a smaller dosage is required because these minerals are applied directly to the root. As a result farmers have cost savings and fewer chemicals are applied producing  natural crops. Through this method chemicals such as herbicides are rendered as being superfluous therefore these toxic chemicals are not released into the environment. In addition the use of pesticides is reduced since less pests attack the crops because most pests are found in the soil. If farmers wish to completely eliminate the use of pesticides when using soilless cultivation they may use integrated pest management technique, a method that promotes the use of a balance of beneficial insects that are natural predators to destructive garden pests.[2]

The conservation of the limited amount of fresh water available on Earth is of vital importance because without any fresh water agricultural activities cannot take place and as a result no food will be produced. On the other hand, hydroponics utilizes approximately 10-15% of the water a farmer normally uses for an open field situation to produce a similar amount of crops. The reason for such a high reduction in water usage is due to the  recycling of water which is delivered to the roots as opposed to the excess water used in irrigation with the traditional methods.[3]

In Guyana hydroponics is likely to play a pivotal role in ensuring food security since it is allows for the production of cash crops in a cost effective manner.Consequently, guaranteeing affordable access to food for persons living in Guyana. Furthermore, farmers benefit because the yield of their crops are likely to increase significantly when compared to traditional methods .

 

Ms. Veronique Droulez International Meat Secretariat, Australia
26.09.2013
Veronique

This is an important topic and there are a number of ways in which the private sector can contribute to improved nutrition in partnership with other relevant stakeholders. We provide examples from the red meat industry, representing beef, veal, sheep and pork meat.

  1. Contributing evidence to inform policies

The private sector can contribute the following evidence in consultation with relevant stakeholders using standardised methodologies to ensure desired outcomes are achieved.

Nutrient composition - dietary guidelines and recommendations are informed by the various food groups ability to deliver on nutrient quality and quantity:

There have been significant changes in production, retail and consumer trimming practices, resulting in leaner meat products and hence lower levels of fat and saturated fat content. The private sector can contribute by updating data to reflect current production systems and consumption practices; represented ‘as consumed’ and by different agro-ecological zones.

Terms such as ‘red meat’, ‘meat’ and ‘processed meat’ which treat commodities as homogenous categories can introduce error since they do not reflect foods available for purchase. The private sector can contribute more meaningful descriptors which represent the retail supply and will help to encourage intake of a diversity of foods within this category.

For some nutrients, such as protein, iron and zinc, correction factors are required which take into consideration bioavailability and the private sector can support research required to  improve food compositional data for these nutrients.  

Environmental impact:

Since GHG is not an appropriate proxy for sustainable diets, multi-criteria have been recommended for environmental impacts relevant to food security such as water, arable land and biodiversity. Use of these resources to produce nutrient-rich foods can help to inform policy. The private sector will continue to provide data on the environmental impact of their products.

We note the need for consequential analyses since environmental impacts will change in response to changes in supply and the private sector can provide the necessary data for these models. The Global Agenda of Action for Sustainable Livestock -a multi-stakeholder platform in which FAO, governments, private sector, and civil society work together to develop sustainability criteria – can contribute to this discussion

2..Supporting nutrition-enhancing programmes

There is evidence from developed countries that improvements in production practices that achieve higher resource use efficiency and decrease degradation of landscapes without compromising their nutritional integrity will not only reduce the environmental impact but also improve nutrition. Actions based on resource use efficiency can usually be practically implemented within the food supply chain and the private sector can share this knowledge with producers in developing countries.

The private sector plays an important role in nutrition education, particularly where food knowledge and skills are required to consume their products, such as meat. There are many examples of partnerships between the private sector, civil society and governments combining their collective expertise, resources and distribution networks in developing programmes and communications for promoting improved nutrition. These need to be evaluated to identify the most effective approaches.

It is becoming increasingly evident that diet and lifestyle are interrelated and that the ‘one size fits all’ approach is not effective. The private sector can contribute consumer insights to guide development of dietary recommendations tailored to the consumption patterns, cultural practices and available food supply of different population groups.

3. Participating in effective partnerships

Collaboration across sectors is challenging and to be effective, we recommend the following:

Nutrition and sustainable diets are broad terms which mean different things to different sectors and to avoid miscommunications, a clear definition and criteria are required which encapsulates the need to feed a growing population and supply a diverse range of foods which meet nutrient requirements and prevent development of chronic diseases.

Two-way dialogue based on mutually beneficial (win-win) partnerships with clarity around roles and responsibilities.

International Life Science Institute (ILSI) , United States of America
26.09.2013
FSN Forum

The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is pleased to respond to this online forum.  As a nonprofit, research foundation, ILSI has a 35 year history of contributing to improving nutrition around the world.  Through our 16 branches and Research Foundation, we have an impressive history of building science related to improving nutritional status through micronutrient fortification, developing science-based dietary guidance designed to reduce noncommunicable diseases, and sharing nutrition knowledge through publications, e.g., Nutrition Reviews, Present Knowledge in Nutrition and the ILSI Europe monograph series.  These monographs translate science for non-specialists and are used extensively to inform audiences worldwide about food and nutrition.

Policy issues:  ILSI advocates for the use of science in developing nutrition policies.  We commissioned a paper discussing this topic for the ICN 2.  The manuscript, entitled “Building Effective Nutrition Policy Demands a Strong Scientific Base,” is downloadable from the ICN 2 website and gives examples of research activities carried out by civil society organizations that provide the science base upon which sound policy is built.  We encourage those interested in the outcome of the ICN 2 to read the manuscript.

Programme Issues:  One of the major challenges facing nutrition programs is showing efficacy.  Collecting data that accurately reflect what people eat is expensive and difficult.  Without such data, showing that a specific nutrition intervention works is difficult, if not impossible.  ILSI has been working with FAO, WHO and ASEAN to develop a harmonized approach to measuring dietary exposure.  This work is focused on harmonizing the lexicon for food categories and individual foods – a basic tool in determining what people are eating.  Harmonization of the names allows intake data collected in different countries to be evaluated and compare more accurately.  FAO and WHO have been pleased with the outcome of this work, funded in large measure by ILSI.

PASSCLAIM delivers criteria to assess the scientific support for claims on food products and is another example of the private sector working with civil society to improve nutrition.  It addressed concerns about misleading and unsubstantiated claims and, when implemented with European Commission regulation 1924 2006, consumers benefited form a harmonized approach to the validity and scientific support for claims on foods leading to improved nutrition.   

Partnerships:  Given the financial realities of today, public-private partnerships are a key mechanism for creating new science and understanding in which all involved combine human and financial resources.  ILSI is built on a public-private partnership principle and the organization believes this principle is fundamental to developing useful science resulting in improved nutrition and health.  Public-private partnerships require nurturing and understanding the issues that must be addressed in order to create strong public-private partnerships.  ILSI North America recently submitted a manuscript describing 12 principles for enduring and effective public-private partnerships for publication.  

UG2014 Group 8 University of Guyana, Guyana
26.09.2013
UG2014

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford

Merely coming together is the first step; however parties need to ensure they make the commitment to keep working together in order to achieve the common goal. In this comment we intend to answer the first question under partnerships.

* What contribution can the private sector and civil society make for working across sectors and building strong linkages between food and agriculture, social protection, employment, health, education and other key sectors?

With the other sections of commentary clearly highlighting the need for greater collaboration amongst the private sector, civil society and policy makers, it’s of concern and mutual interest for the discussions that proceed to highlight several key areas how these parties can find common grounds in partnering to foster some kind of growth in our economy. Recently the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva echoed the same sentiments at a high level meeting in Africa.1

Firstly, applying this to our country Guyana, the role of the local private sector body (The Private Sector Commission or PSC) should be taken into consideration. The PSC is the umbrella body that deals extensively in creating investment and sharing information to the firms that are members. Thus if organizations such as the FAO hold meetings with the commission to outline to their roles and the initiatives of the FAO in eradicating issues such as food security and improving nutrition they would have better knowledge and guidance in ways in which they can help in meeting these goals. Being more inclined to the pivotal role they play, the Private sector will be able to help create policies such that they themselves along with the civil society could be better off and achieve some kind of Pareto Efficiency.

Civil Society being NGOs, religious bodies and other substantial non-profit and non-governmental groups in society, can also benefit from meetings with the FAO that would inform them of the goals in mind. As Civil Society is usually closer to the average citizen they can better determine the root of the problem so an efficient solution can be found.

In terms of working across sectors to achieve better nutrition both private and civil society can help in building strong links across these sectors by setting targets for each sector that would complement the other sector and would all be geared towards the same goal. For instance, the private and civil society can work with policy makers to ensure that systems are put in place that would allow for both the quantity and quality of food production to be increased. Once this has been done it also important to educate citizens of the essentials of a balanced diet so they can choose their foods wisely and reduce risks of life threatening diseases. The healthcare section can help in informing citizens of wise nutritional choices. Though Guyana had halved our poverty level, there are still those who cannot afford to eat a balanced diet. Civil society can continue their numerous feeding programs and the private sector can create more employment where possible to help with this situation. This will help Guyana successfully reach its Goal 1 target of the MDG.

Source:

United Nations. UN News Centre. July 1, 2013. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45313&Cr=hunger&Cr1=food+se... (accessed September 25, 2013).