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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.

Mr. Subhash Mehta Devarao Shivaram Trust, India

You will be pleased to read the CGIAR Chairman's forward, written for UNCTAD’s Trade and Environment Review 2013 - "Wake Up Before Its Too Late ", endorsing the paradigm shift required in agriculture.

Some highlights:

Better understanding of the multi – functionality of agriculture being of  pivotal importance for the significant role it can play in development of rural poor producer communities’ access to safe, sufficient, nutritious food and mitigating/ adapting to climate change

·        Around one billion people chronically suffer from starvation and another billion are malnourished (70% of these two billion are themselves small producers/ agriculture labour) as they do not have the money to access sufficient nutritious food for their own needs

·        Priority in conventional systems remains on productivity and economies of scale, with the focus being on ‘Industrial Agriculture’

·        Paradigm shift and Fundamental transformation towards sustainable low cost agriculture systems needs to be recognized to ensure the ‘Right of everyone to safe, sufficient nutritious food is a reality before the MDG’s deadline of 2015 (June 20, 12, Rio +20

Links are given below to the press release of Sept 18, 2013, and the report:

It is very encouraging that the report focuses on the current crisis in global agriculture and calls upon Governments to change and follow a smallholder producer friendly enabling AR4D path, primarily to put them to work on farm, producing most/ all the nutritious food needs for themselves and markets in the vicinity and tackle the multiple challenges of rural poverty, hunger, malnutrition, suicides, environmental degradation and the effects of climate change. This
requires a rapid and significant shift from conventional monoculture-based and high-external-input-dependent ‘economies of scale’  industrial production towards mosaics of sustainable, regenerative ‘economies of scope’, integrated low cost agriculture systems of each area that considerably improves livelihoods, production, net income and purchasing power of smallholder producer communities.

This report adds to the growing weight of opinion that conventional industrial agriculture will not deliver future nutritious food security and that efforts to promote low cost ecological farming practices, as adapted by successful farmers of each area, season after season, need to be widely and rapidly scaled-out for producer communities to access the required nutritious food and at little or no cost, thus making agriculture sustainable for nutritious food security and in the long term and substantially contributing to the economic development of developing countries.

 I am attaching the ‘White paper’ (contributed by CSOs for GCARD, Montpelier, March 2010), as it had then initiated the Paradigm shift in AR4D- Old to New, matrix also attached,  focus being on following integrated agriculture of the area, financing of producer orgs/ companies (Private Sector) set up by the rural smallholder producer communities but staffed by professionals (general  practitioners [GPs] and MBAs in agriculture), to take over all responsibilities and manage risks, leaving members mostly to on farm activities.

Hopefully, the CGIAR and national agricultural research and education systems (NARES)  with the intervention of all stakeholders, ensure that the mandates are re written to include the proposed paradigm shift in the report, also being reflected in their research agenda and gets translated into policy recommendations by Governments, international bodies and multilateral UN agencies.

Warm regards


Dr. Claudio Schuftan PHM, Viet Nam

I have to say that, so far, I have been surprised that big industry has been silent in this consultation. I'd say most contributions have dealt with 'small private sector' potential or proven inputs.
But, not trying to be repetitive, I want all of us to be conscious of the big picture of how the private sector can and often is bad news and works at counter-purpose to what all of us aspire.

Let's take the example of PP()Ps:
PPPs are seen by the Establishment as a way to bring new financial resources to address global challenges --nutrition included. However, in reality, they have further reinforced selective vertical programs by focusing on non-sustainable, technocratic solutions to single issues (e.g. fortification with micronutrients or supplementation). They are simply not addressing the social determination of malnutrition or many of the burning needs of national health and nutrition systems to deliver such services, especially preventive.
To me, it is clear: PPPs need to be seriously questioned since they have proven to be unable to promote horizontally-integrated, social interventions with an explicit commitment to strengthen local systems and, most of all, to respond to locally felt needs seldom allowed to be expressed. They have been unable (unwilling?) to build new alliances with people's civil society organizations and social movements that are struggling for more participatory decision-making in all health and nutrition matters.  
Existing global PPPs must thus be audited, in order to expose the basic flaws and rules that such PPPs ongoingly apply plus their flagrant conflicts of interest on the many occasions where they are influencing public decision making. They are not to be allowed to build upon existing public systems and not to embed the actions they fund in national structures --always with the ulterior motives of profit or gains in market share and also of 'white-washing' their bad conscience and reputation.
There is more to criticize, but I stop here for now.

PS: How do colleagues think this is different (if at all) from how global philanthropies work? Why do some call this philanthrocapitalism?

Cludio Schuftan, People's Health Movement, Ho Chi Minh City

Prabir Dutta Dg Foundation, India

Dear Sir,

IDF has discussed elaborately different types of Malnutrition viz over-nutrition, under-nutrition, micronutrient deficiency etc. Soil for agriculture may remain ideal by organic agriculture system. Under-nutrition caused by poverty has to be checked by foods of animal origin mainly. Micronutrient deficiency can be controlled  also by the foods of animal origin. Example of Bangladesh vis to ideal cultivation may be considered.

Best regards.

Yours sincerely,

(Dr)Prabir Dutta

Dg Community,


UG2014 Group 8 University of Guyana, Guyana

''Innovations that are guided by smallholder farmers, adapted to local circumstances, and sustainable for the economy and environment will be necessary to ensure food security in the future.”– Bill Gates

It is our smaller farmers who also need to be empowered if we are to help solve the global issue of nutrition and food security. Under the right guidance and given the right opportunities they can prosper and in turn so too can a country’s economy. In this comment we intend to answer the first question under programs.

·         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?

In Guyana there are not many well-known success stories about such programs. However, one such story is the Linden Economic Advancement Program (LEAP). The initiative was started in 2002 and ended 2009. At the time it was a Government and Civil Society Program. The approach basically is to fund a maximum of 100% of labour and 80% of operation costs. Farmers will fund 100% of equipment and a minimum of 20 % of the costs of operation or LEAP will fund a maximum of 100%of labour, 20% of equipment rental and 70% of operation costs. Farmers will fund a minimum of 80% of equipment rental and 30% costs of operation. 

The idea behind the program is that assistance with land clearing would have an immediate effect on the expansion of cultivation. Moreover, LEAP is intended to be a means for the achievement of economic diversification of Region 10 through increased investment, and emergence of a viable entrepreneurial sector. This in return would impact the nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems within the Region 10 area. The will result in the farmers benefitting tremendously from this initiative since farmers could earn an income and the area would become relatively more ‘Food Secure’.

Today members of the LEAP committee have recognised the importance of the said program and have continued to fund the initiative from their own pockets. It is now a private and civil society partnership. The members have indicated the tremendous growth and potential that resulted from fostering the initiative to present day. Farmers from the region 10 area have even started tapping into overseas markets to expand their product line.

Due to the overwhelming success a new initiative was formed and referred to as the Region 10 Agriculture and Forest Producers Association. The organization is a community-based organization registered under the Friendly Societies Act. Its acts as an institution to create employment and reduce poverty by financially empowering the residents of Region 10 and provides an opportunity to diversify from the traditional bauxite industry for which this community is known. The organisation’s motto is, “thank you for choosing our product, you are helping to eradicate poverty in our region”.

The lesson learnt here is that, through closer knitted program such as LEAP, the agriculture sector in general could be fostered. The amount of farmers benefitting from these initiates is overwhelming and still being recorded.  When the private sector is involved, such programs will be even more efficient after all, they will peruse some kind of profit maximisation and intern have some kind of efficiency. Food security woes are no longer a problem and levels of nutrition rise since the area now had both better access to food and is more economically stable.

We would like to suggest a simple recommendation. If the Ministry of Agriculture has an impact assessment done, they would see the amount of positive externalities being derived from such programs. Policies should then be created to have such programs being implemented though the ministry and the commercial banks. Therefore empowering small farmers further and welcoming potential farmers on board. Not only should grants be given out but more practical and onsite training should be provided for farmers. These initiatives would foster an already dying sector in our economy. It would empower small farmers who in turn, as we have seen with the success of the LEAP programme, can help eradicate food security and nutrition issues. With the Guyana Marketing Agency on board, the farmers would then find overseas markets to sell their products and even go into agricultural by products such as jams, pepper sauces, seasonings etc.  This can help with the worldwide food security and nutrition problems by increasing the availability of food.

Suraiya Ramkissoon
Jamilya Morian
Veronica Sukhai
Alexander Defreitas
Ricardo Deokie


LEAP. Linden Economic Advancement Program. 2003-2009. (accessed September 22, 2013).

Stabroek News. Linden farmers on sweet pepper drive. May 14, 2009. (accessed September 22, 2013).


Future of Agricultural Economics

Reference to Guyana:

Government is a main channel of communication in many countries, especially in developing countries. However, there are always lags and misinformation when implementing measures on a National scale. Given this, one realizes that with the urgency of improving nutrition and combating hunger there needs to be a more personal and closer channel to reach the people and this is where the Civil Society and Private Sector comes in. The Civil Society is a main advocate and implementer of necessary policies and strategies for the improvement nutrition. The Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN) gives a very insightful list of the roles the Civil Society must fulfill as the watch dog and advocate of improving nutrition, they include: Know what has to be done; Do what has to be done; Be part of inclusive partnerships for planning and policy making; Advocate for the most marginalized and disadvantaged and finally Be accountable.[1] The Private sector has one major role and that is to be the investment drive to make these strategies practical.

The need for a nutrition sensitive and healthy population is a drive for overall development in a country. In Guyana, a lot of people are able to go about their daily lives and be comfortable because these struggles are unknown to them. The Stabroek and Bourda Markets in the capital city are full of produce, the supermarkets and shops are successful; on the exterior everything looks fine. So what Guyana needs are persuasive methods to force the private sector to see beyond the exterior and look at important issues and realize that they can play a major role and steer Guyana to become a humanitarian conscious country with a keen eye on future prosperity.

             In this post we would like to address the issue of Partnerships between the Private Sector and Civil Society in order to improve nutrition. This issue brings to mind the Chinese proverbial saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” We are not saying that the Private Sector and Civil Society need to fully donate food to the needy people; we are saying that there are other ways of outreach that should be utilised before this method. Our first suggestion is for the Private sector and Civil Society to engage in worthy Agriculture based investments such as finding out ways in which they can get access to unused fertile lands and lease or sell them at reasonable prices so that the average man can get access to them without hassle and this can encourage farming. In short, we are saying that the Private Sector and Civil Society can team up and petition for land allocation activities which will contribute positively to the economy, meaning that the more produce in the economy can encourage the use of fresh, healthier meals by the populace. Another partnership which can be helpful is for the Private Sector to fund the Civil Society to operate coop societies in the different villages so as to encourage bulk purchasing of fruits and vegetables so that farmers’ produce will not go to waste if they are not sold out in the market and villagers can enjoy healthy selections at a reasonable price.

The Civil Society should organise awareness campaigns in order to educate households and businesses alike in the form of “House to House" visits on issues such as how junk and processed food cause malnutrition. Given that we are on the topic of awareness, the media is a very important player in spreading the word. The private sector can play an important role here to educate people through health conscious television advertisements, radio announcements and newspaper articles.

Our final suggestion is for the private sector to give out vouchers to the civil society. The Civil Society will now filter out the best candidates (single parents, poor low income families, those who are chronically ill, etc) to receive the vouchers.

          Partnership between the Private Sector and Civil Society is vital in the struggle to improve nutrition. Their interdependence as a team is a very important factor which can make a big difference all over the world to fight many issues as addressed in this post.


Sources: [1]

Anura Widana Self-employed, New Zealand
Anura Widana

The farmers' organisation (FOs) as a civil society has a definite role in promoting food security and nutrition both within farming and non-farming sectors. Unlike many other forms of civil society groups, the members of FOs themselves undertake farming which put them in the context to carry out farming practices both for food security and nutrition. The involvement of FOs in the farming sector is most appropriate and cost-effective in the present context of agriculture given the low-level of resources available for the public sector for the same role.

There is evidence that FOs have contributed in increasing food production, marketing, enhancing agricultural productivity, conservation of land,  water and other farming resources, conflicts resolution, diversification of agriculture, production of chemiclas-free crops and livestock, popularisation of organic farming methods and several other activities.

The following link takes reader to the profiles of FOs in Sri Lanka where much of the farming responsibility in irrigation systems is rested on this entity. The report also describes with data activities of organisations, profile, membership, legal status, financial strength and constraints to progress.!169&cid=8c8b433c0d1fb2af&

It is important to note that FOs are not only active in agricultural production and marketing but also in resource conservation, diversification, conflicts resolution and in a number of social activities that are important weithin farming areas.

Farmers' organisation offers a viable and sustainable mechanism to increase production, diversify, products marketing, secure food security and produce healthy food for the people in countries where public-sector led extension is either not working or seriously handi-capped in several countries in Asia-Pacific and Africa.   

UG Agricultural Economics Focus 2014 University of Guyana, Guyana
UG Agricultural Economics

Note: This is a follow-up post  based on previous ideas expressed by this group. This post focuses on what the Priavte Sector can do to contribute to food security. 

The private sector has a special role to play in food security, especially in rural areas. Through a process of vertical coordination in the rural agriculture sector, large agro processing firms can enhance the efficiency of farm operations, drive income growth in these regions and, therefore, augment the food security of rural dwellers.  The literature suggests very strongly that increased income is positively correlated to improved food and nutritional security,

Contract farming, a tenet of what experts call the “industrialization of agriculture”, is regarded as a production arrangement with the potential to yield tremendous benefits for farmers.

Under a contractual arrangement, the contractor (agro processing firm, in this case) and farmer share the risk of agricultural production, and work together to mitigate these risks. For instance, contracted farmers are assured of a definite buyer for their produce and, maybe a fixed price, whereas an independent farmer  are confronted by market vagaries such as low market access, as well as fluctuating prices.

Additionally, contractors can help farmers enhance their production techniques by providing them with extension services and technology which, if they (farmers) were independent, they might not be able to afford.  Usually, because of lack of knowledge and concomitant risk averseness, farmers are hesitant to adopt new production techniques. Under contractual stipulations, however, and with ‘goading’ from the contractor, farmers are more likely to adopt modern agricultural techniques.

Through vertical coordination, agro processing firms help to correct the common issue of there not being credit markets that serve rural farmers. Whether as a result of uncertain land tenure, information asymmetry and monitoring costs, banks usually set high collateral requirements and interest rates which the independent farmer cannot afford. Because contractors set a standard for the output they contract independent farmers to produce, they have a more “hands-on” approach when dealing with farmers and to this end, contractors often supply inputs to farmers on credit.

However, vertical coordination does not automatically translate to improved incomes and greater food security for farmers. Large corporations (contractors) have been accused of underpaying farmers for their produce, as well as engaging in agriculture techniques which, while commercially favorable, are environmentally devastating. There has been, though, increased activism by NGOs, farmers rights groups, governments and international organizations, has strengthened the bargaining position of farmers and led to them receiving better terms under contracts.

Mr. Marco Montanaro Barilla Center For Food & Nutrition , Italy

Contribution submitted by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition  ( – September 2013

Note : The Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition (BCFN) is an international think thank established in 2009 with the objective to analyze the major issues related to food and nutrition around the world.  Economic, scientific, social, and environmental factors are analyzed in relation to their impacts on   food, through a multidisciplinary approach. For more information

Structure policies and social-health interventions to effectively promote thespreading of healthy eating behavior, also looking to the international best practices in this area

In our view, the way in which available scientific knowledge in the field of nutritionand health can be translated into concrete action, toward broad, comprehensive planning that can have a real impact on people’s behavior, should be re-thinked. The public institutions most involved in these issues are not the only ones called on to participate in the definition and implementation of such projects, but other parties, including private companies and doctors, will also need to play a proactive role (according to their specific areas of expertise). A brief summary of these guidelines for improving all of the measures for the actual spread of healthier eating habits and lifestyles is below:

- It is essential that the dietary and lifestyle recommendations provided be practical and workable: in fact, they must be understandable and adoptable by families and individuals for the concrete circumstances of their lives

- Intervention plans formulated for nutrition and health should be defined in structural terms that aim to influence behavior in a sustainable manner over time: from this point of view, the time horizon cannot be limited to the short term, despite the need for practical improvements to be found within a reasonable length of time.

- In general, it is desirable that interventions on diet and health have a national (at least) breadth, with necessary local variations, which may differ in the form of their execution, but do not differ in substance from the guidelines and principles defined at the national (or international) level;

- For children and adolescents, it is necessary that the issues related to diet and lifestyle be addressed with an approach that combines information and experience (“active education”)

- It is necessary to involve the medical profession in the process of spreading healthy eating habits. The family doctor and the pediatrician, in particular, could be a great “conveyor belt” of more correct dietary habits.

 - It is necessary to ask the agro-food industry to think about implementing strategies and operational plans consistent with the guidelines identified for proper nutrition. This can help encourage them to conduct scientific, nutritional and technological research and to work constructively on several important topics that concern them (for example, the progressive improvement of the nutritional profiles, the definition of food with specific features, the improvement of the nutritional density of the products, etc.).

Agronomic “knowledge” is not very widespread.

With the development of science, farming is increasingly characterized by the articulation and breadth of knowledge gained regarding the characteristics of the natural environment and the physiology of plant species. All this is combined with the practical experience accumulated over centuries of activity. In other words, there is a wealth of knowledge available of extraordinary value that is only partially used today. In certain surroundings, this seems to be due to the lack of effective processes for transferring knowledge.

Biodiversity as an instrument for correct risk management.

A pragmatic approach, without prejudice, to the choice of agricultural models allows – at the level of policymaking – the maximization of the overall resilience of agricultural systems. Proper management of biodiversity and the coexistence of different models, all equally optimized concerning sustainability boosts the possibilities of response to adverse events and the search for specific objectives of the system, when these are alternative (e.g., maximum quality vs. large volumes).

Sustainable diets and healthy lifestyles.

Healthy lifestyles and food choices have an increasing impact on the environment, besides people’ health.

In the food sector, we witness a gradual shift in the consumption patterns which are not consistent with the protection of the environment and people’s well-being. An example of such shift is represented by the increase in the consumption of animal proteins in the emerging countries - with subsequent increase of agricultural raw materials destined to animal feeding -  and nutritional imbalances in daily diets.

We believe the food consumption patterns based on sustainable diets may have a beneficial effect on agricultural productions and the environment.

Concern 3 University of Guyana, Guyana

Concern: concern embodies the sentiments of an assembly of students of the University of Guyana committed to sharing ideas on how we can improve food security across time horizons for our peoples. The dynamism of this topic (Food Security) will see us drawing lessons from many sources and fields of taught. Emphasis of our contributions will focus on developing countries as the core of our ideas. Food Security is an important subject!           

“Concern” contributions will reflect the views of each student as far as possible.

Unleashing current and future constrain through partnerships and enhanced nutrition today

The well-being of developing countries and their peoples are hinged on several components of which ‘partnership and nutrition’ are significant. Partnership, however, especially among Government, Private Sector, and Civil Society is no easy feat. The goals of these bodies often collide resulting in many destabilizing outcomes injurious to citizenry. Nevertheless, “…recognition and respect of differences in ideologies, values, interests and practices among partners…[1]” (all else equal) can provide the bridge needed to set the motion of progress forward.

An example of partnership among the agents stated above can be seen in “Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)[2]” which “partners with civil society to advocate for sound policies. Another reference can drawn from the wide spread support garnered to address the issue to HIV/AIDS. Today, changes in attitudes, behaviour, and institution have had major impact on the fight of this life taking disease.

What is the point? Where the right issues are identified coupled with partnerships and the common will to achieve a set goal, that objective becomes a reality. The issue of nutrition is one of grave importance to a nation. Poor nutrition has a certain kind of a “circular cumulative trap”. Its impact on over-all health and well-being is deep. Poor health contributes to high mortality rate, high health cost, to the firm, low productivity, absenteeism, among others.

Developing countries need the right types and design of policies which will provide space for these three agents to operate. The private sector needs to know its property is protected and the existence of an independent judiciary, civil society is concern about security to execute their agenda. The role of government is to use it policy making leverage to create institutions which will allow for the innovative capacity of both the private sector and civil society to move process. Practical lessons can be learnt from China[3] and Brazil[4] which provides modern approach to agriculture.

For there to be genuine change in the nutritional value derived from our farm products it is critical that all three agents herein recognize their role. Policy formation should be coordinated among the agents to design the needed institutions to influence all sectors inclusive of technological development component.        


[1] Government, Private Sector and Civil Society for Sustainable Development:  Toward a Collaborative Synergy in Latin America

[2] How can the private sector effectively partner with civil society to promote good governance in Kenya? (Raphael Obonyo 2013)

[3] China’s Agricultural Policies and Rural Development

[4] Policy, Technology, and Efficiency of Brazilian Agriculture

agri econs5 University of Guyana, Guyana

“According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, with respect to psychological (basic) and safety needs of a human being, once individuals have basic nutrition, shelter and safety, they attempt to accomplish more.” --- Abraham Maslow

According to the World Health Organization,Nutrition is the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs. Good nutrition – an adequate, well balanced diet combined with regular physical activity – is a cornerstone of good health.”

With reference to the preamble and definition above, one can conclude that basic nutrition (on the aggregate level) will more likely develop a very productive labour force, thus the country’s development.  However, due to the rise of the fast food industry in Guyana it is evident that people are more concerned with the convenience of getting food faster rather than the most  important point, which is, proper nutrition. Most individuals in society presently rely on processed or packaged “less nutritious” foods because of its low time consuming characteristics to prepare. It is therefore of importance to note that the lack of a healthy labour force is likely to cause a decline in productivity and a loss of efficiency.

The world today is faced with its own unique challenges. As highlighted before in the forum, poverty eradication and a growing population approximated to exceed 9 billion by the year 2050, creates a sense of urgency on the matter of food security and nutrition.

As stated by Thomas Malthus, “That the increase of population is necessarily limited by the means of subsistence, that population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase, and, that the superior power of population is repressed, and the actual population kept equal to the means of subsistence, by misery and vice.”  However, Malthus ignored one key element which has seen the exponential increase in population today. Technology has allowed mankind to produce more at faster rates to feed our growing population.

From an economic perspective, nutrition is integral to individuals and the population as a whole since it has a positive correlation with population growth. When inspecting the Solow Growth Model (Macroeconomics 6th Edition, N. Gregory Mankiw), it can be clearly noted that growth in the capital stock, growth in the labour force, and advances in technology can significantly boost the productive capacity of a nation. In essence, in magnifying the point of population growth which is synonymous to growth in the labour force the focal point of the private sector along with civil societies should definitely be pointed in the direction of proper nutrition because through proper nutrition, only then a massive labour force can be developed thus economic growth and development. This can be substantiated from the following statement

“the improvement of average nutritional status in the poorest countries will generate a positive social effect way beyond its economic effect”-(does nutrition enhance economic growth? The economic cost of hunger by  Xiaojun Wang and Kiyoshi Taniguchi)[1]

(It makes no sense that the population is growing and individuals lack proper nutrition since poor nutrition can lead to reduced immunity, increased susceptibility to disease, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity. Basically this population will be a liability to the labour force.)

Solutions to the problem of nutrition and food security are numerous. However, we shall concentrate on civil society and the private sector.  We shall examine the roles they play in the solution to the problems associated with nutrition and food security.

“Civil societies also known as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — are critical actors in the advancement of universal values around human rights, the environment, labour standards and anti-corruption. As global market integration has advanced, their role has gained particular importance in aligning economic activities with social and environmental priorities”[2]-

The role of civil society in solving the solution encompasses sensitizing the public on nutrition to lobbying governments to engage in policy making which can promote the production of highly nutritious food. To illustrate, civil society can persuade governments to subsidise technology used on farms.  As a result, farmers can benefit from the use of these technologies and increase production.  Hydroponics is a viable alternative agricultural technique as it is cheaper and delivers nutrients directly to the plant root.  This encourages efficiency and is a simple process for farmers to learn and adapt. However, like most developing countries farmers in Guyana are an aged population, risk averse and may be reluctant to engage and learn a new technique. By creating an attractive policy the farmers can benefit significantly through hydroponics and thus promote social mobility among small farmers. The need to lobby for nutrition specialists through health centres, television programmes and school programmes can all aid in educating the population on the importance of a balanced diet. When an individual works hard to attain their money they should be able to spend their money on proper nutrition as opposed to “fast food” which  is likely to lower productivity and cause illnesses such as diabetes thereby reducing the individual’s welfare and in the long run resulting in a premature death.

On the other hand, the private sector which is more profit oriented can seek to exploit the opportunity to invest in developing large agricultural lands for food production.  As in the developed world farm lands are concentrated mainly among large scale producers since an incentive exists for farmers to invest more into the accumulation of stock and land.

Collaboration of the private sector and civil society will likely promote growth of small farmers through access to credit, grants and advice. This is likely to translate to greater production as farmers are now better able to access the resources they need to expand their enterprise.

The documentary Life and Debt by Stephanie Black highlighted the flaws in economic policy which was supposed to encourage economic growth and reduce poverty.  However, the policies failed as the IMF imposed certain restrictions and the domestic economy was not allowed to flourish. Thus, protective barriers and subsidies can arguably be utilized by developing countries to cultivate an efficient agriculture industry.  As in most cases developing countries are at a disadvantage or face unfair competition by the developed countries because they have heavily subsidized agricultural industries and they are exceedingly larger, hence more efficient and control a greater part of the world market.  Therefore our objective will be to explore possible strategies which the private sector and the civil society can be involved in, most importantly how both of these bodies can collaborate to make hydroponic farming and thus the agricultural sector in Guyana one of pre-eminence.   

Richard Leo
Devon Seeram
Tiffany Adams
Romel Bheer 
Venetia Smith
Samantha Thierens