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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. Senkosi Kenneth Forum for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa, Uganda

Many thanks for the topic. Addressing nutrition issues from a private sector perspective is a challenge as its profit margin oriented. As you know well balanced foods attract premium prices thus, fewers sales and that makes them 'unpalatable' to investers. However, the private sector in partnership with CSOs can make a positive change. The public will have a quicker buyin for the adoption of menus involving nutrious foods if this cause is CSO led. Therefore, the private sector needs to finance the CSOs to this effect.

In essense, the model is research, production and finance to be handled by the private sector with promotion led by the civil society for greater public buyin.


Kenneth Senkosi

Mr. Raghavendra Guru Srinivasan Independent, India
Raghavendra Guru


Excess Nutrition or Overeating leads to obesity and deterioration in human capital.

Possible solution

The basic fact is that intense practitioners of yoga consume food only once a day while moderate practitioners of yoga consume food twice a day. With the normal consumption being around three times on a given day, the economic benefit or the reduction in food consumption due to yoga practice is two meals per person per day for intense practitioner and the same would be one meal per person per day for moderate practitioner. In addition, the economic benefit includes increase in well-being & consciousness, and decrease in cost of non-communicable diseases.

Thus yoga can be a mitigating factor for overeating that leads to obesity. Yoga is different from other physical activity as one has to reduce food consumption to progress in practice.   I have proposed that Yoga be recognised as Clean development mechanism for food energy.

Policy Issues
I have explained the policy issues in the attached document they include Simplification of food taxes globally and embedding physical activity in education.
Programme Success - example America
Percentage of Yoga practitioners in America has shot up to 8.7% of the total population by 2012.
The savings in food consumption could be well over 1% of national food consumption together with phenomenal development in human capital.  This percentage of 8.7% in USA was achieved due to decades of hard work of yoga teachers while people in India have started undergoing bariatric surgery.
Recognition of Yoga as clean development mechanism is primary and we need to create corresponding governance frameworks similar to that of the frameworks we have for fossil fuels.
Partnerships are required at international and national level to embed best practice in education.   The Partnerships to be built could be similar to that of Michelle obama's promotion of physical activity in developing countries.  Such partnership are non existent in India which has the dual problem of malnutrition and obesity.
Kuruppacharil V.Peter World Noni Research Foundation, India
Kuruppacharil V.Peter

Private sector and civil societies play a significant role to improve nutrition of the community.
In fact in many countries, they play a bigger role in education, demonstration, training and dissemination of traditional knowledge. Availability of food, access to food by enhanced purchasing power and absorption of nutrients by a receptive and healthy body are three pillars of nutritional security.
Without the active involvement of civil society and private sector, the whole exercise will be ineffective.
The private sector has a social obligation which is further embellished by tax benefits. Rockefeller Foundation funded the much lauded wheat programme in Mexico and India. Ford Foundation, Microsoft, Jamshatjee Tata Foundation etc are a few philanthropic organizations supporting health and nutrition education.
A detailed discussion will be useful to planners, politicians and educationalists.

Dr K V Peter