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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:

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 ( 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.

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 for any further information.

Concern 3 University of Guyana, Guyana

Effective Governance Contribution to Nutrition Enhancement in Developing Countries

“Good governance of the nutrition sector entails making adequate policy decisions in a timely manner, committing the necessary financial and organisational resources to their effective implementation, that is ensuring that benefits reach the majority of the population, preferably the most vulnerable. Good governance also entails a sustained political commitment to ensure that nutrition programmes and policies are able to withstand threats and constraints from changes in national leadership and political and socioeconomic upheavals.” [1]

Effective governance is essential in developing countries in order to provide strong leadership and to efficiently coordinate policies and programmes to eliminate food and nutrition insecurity. Therefore the following changes need to be embraced in order to accomplish goals for nutrition enhancement in developing countries.

Governance need to encourage the participation of actors from the state, market and civil society in the decision making process. Their collaboration is vital in order to design and implement nutrition policies that cater for the ‘most vulnerable groups, including women, food insecure households and small scale farmers’. All individuals should have equal access to resources and opportunities to enhance their welfare.

Impartial legal frameworks need to be enforced in developing countries in order to ensure that the right of every individual is protected. "An independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force will also be required for efficiency."

Fundamental information related to nutrition budget expenditure should be transparent and accessible by the private sector as well as the civil society.

Lastly, “all organizations should also be accountable to individuals who would be affected by their decision. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Who is accountable to whom, varies depending on whether decisions or actions taken are internal or external to an organization or institution.” [2]


[ [1] ]Solon, F.S. (2007) ‘Good Governance for Nutrition in the Philippines: Elements, Experiences, and Lessons Learned’, Food and Nutrition Bulletin 27.4: 343–52

[ [2] ] UnitedNations. (2013). What is Good Governance? Thailand: United Nations Economic & Social Commissionfor Asia & the Pacific.                     Retreivedfrom:

UNDP (1997) Governance for Sustainable Human Development. United Nations Development Programme


The role of the private sector and civil society is paramount in a nation's quest to improved nutrition. If this responsibility is to be left on the shoulder of the government alone, it is reasonable to assume that, given the many other functions of government, this purpose would be left unattained to a large degree. This is not to point out any particular weaknesses to any particular government. However, especially in the consideration of a developing country where allocation of resources is supremely significant in that country's advancement, it would be unreasonable to assume that any governing body would be able to take the matter of the nation's nutritional well-being wholly into its own hands.

In responce to the post of the previous group, Future of Agricultural Economics ECN 4103 Group 2, who stated that the private sector could take up the role of implementing better health systems for employees (such as medical insurances or allowances), we pose our question thusly: Is implementing better health systems a route to the improvement of nutrition of a nation, or is it merely a means by which POOR nutrition can be treated more readily or effectively?

That question is not to understate the importance of improved health systems, but merely to point out that given those improvements, it would not speak directly to a nation's intake of more nutritional foods, but rather to a system that is better prepared to deal with ailments that may arise from poor nutrition.

Take, for example, the United States of America. The powerhouse nation. The everypresent economic giant. The health systems of this great nation are, undoubtedly, far superior to that of smaller, less developed countries such as our motherland, Guyana. Whereas, perhaps, our greatest area of nutritional insufficiency stems from resources not being able to reach many of the poor peoples of our land, and thus leading to many people, children especially, being under-nourished and underweight, the problem facing America is converse to ours in that their greatest nutritional letdown is the rate of obesity that plagues their people.

Better health systems, yes. Better nutritional standards? Perhaps not. 

It is by this arugment that we can then pose a further question: is less time Really lost by implementing better health systems? Or does it create an opportunity whereby workers can benefit from health allowances and have no real incentive to alter an unhealthy lifestyle?


Future of Agricultural Economics

The Civil Society and Private Sector are key players in the fight to improve nutrition. Given the previous post by this group on how important the partnership between these two entities are in the battle for a better nourished population we would now like to give a different perspective. The focus will now be on the issue of Health Care and its role in a Developing country like Guyana and its link to the Civil Society and Private Sector.

Health care is social insurance for the ill and injured. In some aspects of the world it is stated that wealth brings better nutrition, which basically says that if a country’s economy is blooming there will be more resources and finances available to invest in improvements in its health sector. This means that better medical care and healthier measures will in turn improve nutrition. The following are some areas that can be addressed that in essence have a chain effect that leads up to an improvement in the overall nutrition of the Population.

Less Loss Time in Productivity can result in more output. Given this, the Private Sector can try to implement better health system in place for employees such as medical insurance and allowances which can reduce the amount of time needed for days off or for trips to the hospital for whatever medical reason.

The Civil Society and Private Sector can bring awareness to the importance of nutrients supplements (such as cod liver oil tablets, vitamin b and c tablets, etc) and make these available to the needy and malnourished proportion of the population free of cost or at a reduced cost. In essence, healthy bodies contribute to healthier minds. Improvements in nutrition benefit the entire country. This availability of supplements will increase the quality and quantity of human capital which is an important determinant of economic growth.

A noticeable trend in developing countries is its unplanned spike in population growth, especially to the uneducated, poor persons whose income cannot cater for a growing family. The Private Sector and Civil Society can invest in sexual and reproductive education and preventative measures which can lead to better family planning and therefore a reduction on the size of a family. A smaller, more manageable family size will make the fewer members more nourished than if the food supply of the home had to be spread out. At a societal level, similar investments may lead to demographic changes conducive to economic development. In particular, they may lead to a period in which countries have a high ratio of workers to dependents leading to increased national savings. In effect this means that a smaller, more manageable and healthy population can most likely result in a rise in GDP per capita if population growth is supervised.

Finally, less financing for remedies and the placement of more importance on preventative measures for certain types of illnesses or providing services for treating illnesses at the early stages will help greatly with the cost that would be incurred if these measures were not in place. Such initiatives can reduce health care burdens on both the Civil Society and Private Sector; this tends to free some of the capital available to be invested in other sectors.

Ms. Helen Medina US Council for International Business, United States of America

As we expressed in our comments in the previous submission to the FAO online consultation, USCIB would like to underscore that advancing health and nutrition requires a multi-stakeholder approach that reflects the complexities of the issues. There is no quick or simple solution to addressing challenges such as obesity, under-nutrition and disease.  While we believe that the private sector has a role in producing healthy and nutritious food, it is equally important to address issues that impact the community’s ability to thrive such as poverty, hunger, gender inequality, water access and sustainable agriculture.  It is within this context that we share with you in our comments some examples of programs and approaches that reflect this complex reality. 

UG2014 Group 8 University of Guyana, Guyana

“We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more.” – Bill Clinton.

Working together is key for any plan to be successful. Divided though the private sector, civil society and government can carry out their roles and responsibilities well, when working together for a common goal – for instance, food security and better nutrition – each party can bring to the table their best skills and together nutrition levels can rise. In this comment we intend to answer the question under 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?

The world is continuously expanding and so is the demand for nutritious foods. The future is uncertain as it relates to Global Warning, which is an unpredictable factor in food production. It is important for all leaders of government, business, civil society to work together to achieve sustainable growth in the agriculture production.

Private sector needs to constantly collaborate with civil society and other stakeholders to invest in research for innovative means of using fewer resources to gain more food.  Consistently interact with their focus groups via monthly meetings, workshops etc. With advancements in technology we can produce more food of higher quality using fewer resources therefore maximising scarce resources.

As we noted in a previous comment, civil society has closer relationships with the average citizen while the private sector has better skills and materials available to draft policies. If these two groups and corporate and bridge the knowledge gap they can provide useful information to policy makers that will enhance governance mechanisms related to agriculture, food systems and nutrition. In other words, as the policy makers will be better equipped as they can add to their skill set the knowledge of both the private and civil society to create policies that not only reach out to the average citizen but also looks at the country’s economic state.

University of Guyana

Dear Moderator, 

In response to the policy issues, the private sector’s involvement in promoting nutrition- enhancing food systems are not to be understated. The private sector essentially picks up the slack where government food systems fall short; we must now target policies to  aid the private sector to fulfil its purpose in food security.

Improper nutrition is mainly associated with impoverished nations due to the unavailability of food with adequate nourishment resulting from income constraints.The private sector should then, design policies aimed at sustainable food supply to balance present and future demand in order to prevent unwarranted price increases in food supplies due to excessive demand. In doing this, food supplies will be within reach for low income and impoverished households at affordable prices.

The private sector should also design policies to target production. It is through the use of more technology, production rates can keep up or even exceed the rate of population growth. In achieving this, production numbers must not only be sufficient (so that there is potentially enough food for everyone in the world to be fed), but also proper food distribution, ensuring global food security for everyone.

Lida Lhotska IBFAN-GIFA, Switzerland
FSN Forum

Dear Moderator,

I would like to support Claudio Schuftan’s observations and suggestions for additional issues that need to be raised and addressed. I would also like to emphasize one point in relation to the Issue 2 he highlights: Unless/until  also principles for safeguarding policy-making against conflicts of interests created by too close or inappropriate engagements with commercial/economic actors are fully implemented in a form of adequate conflict of interest policies, that deal with individual AND institutional conflicts of interests, and that help address their underlying causes, the chance that the Secretary general’s demand for the post 2015 food and nutrition policies to be compliant  with human rights principles will be very slim or non-existent.

With best regards,

Lida Lhotska
IBFAN Liaision office

Dr. Claudio Schuftan PHM, Viet Nam

Dear Moderator,

This consultation on the role of civil society and the private sector was originally conceived to give room for our inputs to the ICN2 preparatory process with the aim of influencing it, not only positively, but also effectively.

Last week, I submitted a posting related to the worrisome role PPPs are exerting on public decision-making. I made a call to action.

But this issue, and many others that worry me, do not seem to be on the agenda of ICN2. Can we expect this consultation will forcefully enough demand that these issues become part of the official discussions in November 2014?

Let me give consultation participants just a sample of the (additional) types of issues I see we are missing and, in my view, cannot simply be excluded in ICN2 in depth discussions:

Issue 1: Post 2015 food and nutrition human rights compliant policies, i.e., policy coherence with the human rights principles and framework as unequivocally recently demanded by the Secretary general . (I cannot understand why the UNHCHR is not a cosponsor of ICN2!).

Issue 2: Governance issues in the nutrition community. As many colleagues will know, after decades, civil society participation in the UN SCN has been excluded and the SCN has primarily become a vehicle for the SUN initiative coordination. (Mind you, SUN has an important corporate and TNC involvement). Actually, the whole issue of private sector participation in global nutrition governance has to be re-discussed critically.

Issue 3: We cannot continue working in nutrition without dealing with what unfair free trade agreements (FTAs) are doing to nutrition, or without dealing with the financial crisis in rich and poor countries.

A much more proactive critique and action is needed in these areas.

These are just three of the issues dear to civil society that come to my mind now. But, of course, there are other. I am sure other colleagues participating in this consultation can add other (Issue 4:…, Issue 5:…, Issue 6:…..). Will ICN2 have these in the agenda of the official ministerial meeting? The question I ask is: Can our consultation make a fervent call to this effect? The first challenge is to put these issues in the agenda. I think the preparatory meeting next November in Rome is crucial and civil society has a pivotal role to play there.

Claudio Schuftan, Ho Chi Minh City

Ms. Veronique Droulez International Meat Secretariat, Australia

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.

See the attachment:FAO comments2.docx
UG2014 Group 8 University of Guyana, Guyana

“Adopting and promoting sustainable production practices require concerted effort, something which in practice is too often missing or insufficient. Making this shift at the scale required demands forward-looking leadership in the public and private sectors alike.” – Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

Setting plans in place to ensure food is grown isn’t always enough to ensure this food will go to the targeted areas. Adequate monitoring of programs is necessary to ensure efficiency. In Following up on our last comment that answered the first question under programs, we are now discussing the second question in this comment.

• How can the impact of such programs on food consumption and nutrition be monitored?

In Guyana, the government has a track record of transforming the agricultural sector into a local and international supplier in a wide range of processed, canned and bottled agricultural foods. They have also achieved the goal of “halving” the population hunger rate. Despite being a major net exporter of food, Guyana still stands on sinkable grounds on providing and maintaining food for its country. The creation of food and nutrition programs is seen as one of the most tedious tasks but monitoring can be tremendously stressful at the other end. However, Guyana has taken the greatest toll of implementing the “Guyana Food and National Security Strategy 2011 -2020”. The strategy is aimed at improving the health and well-being of all persons living in Guyana through enhanced food and nutrition security. In developing and implementing policies and programs to achieve this overall goal its measures and actions will impact the entire population, but the primary concern will be with those sections of the population that live in poverty and are considered particularly vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity. This monitoring program was undertaken by the government of Guyana along with the ministry of agriculture and other governmental bodies. There has been no recent monitoring program developed by the private sector or civil society but they both have been in support of the government’s monitoring program.

With this strategy active, a Regional and Community Food and Nutrition Security Forums (CFNSF) and a National Technical Coordinating Unit (NTCU) will be constituted by stakeholders from government, private sector, civil society and the donor community at each of the ten administrative regions of Guyana. The major role of the Community Coordinators (CC) will be to prioritize projects related to food security and facilitate food security project coordination, identification, implementation, management and evaluation.

The private sector and civil society will in turn applaud, support and be better off with this initiative in supporting the needs of the nation’s wealth. With these bodies in action we now have major monitoring techniques in place which will grow a better Guyana for all.


Source: Ministry of Agriculture: Government of Guyana. Food and Nutrition Security Strategy for Guyana. July 2011. (accessed September 24, 2013).