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30.06.2013 - 28.07.2013

Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems

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 ICN2 online discussion “Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems” builds on earlier FSN Forum debates “Linking Agriculture, Food Systems, and Nutrition: What’s your perspective?” and “Making agriculture work for nutrition: Prioritizing country-level action, research and support”. It invites you to share evidence and exchange views on how to improve policies, programmes and interventions for making agriculture and food systems more responsive to nutrition. Policy and programme options as well as institutional arrangements for improving diets and raising levels of nutrition, particularly of the poorest and most nutritionally vulnerable, as well as ways to improve monitoring and evaluation of their impact and cost-effectiveness will be sought.

Improving nutrition must begin with food and agriculture. This is because the poor and most nutritionally vulnerable depend in large part upon agriculture for their livelihoods.   Notwithstanding the importance of the role of agriculture in producing food and generating income, employment and livelihoods, it is the food system as a whole i.e. the post-production sector beyond agriculture including processing, storage, trade, marketing and consumption that nowadays contributes significantly more to the eradication of malnutrition.

“Nutrition-enhancing” are approaches that address the underlying determinants or basic causes of malnutrition. Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems are those that effectively and explicitly incorporate nutrition objectives, concerns and considerations, improve diets and raise levels of food and nutrition security. Actions may include making more nutritious food more accessible to everyone or to specific targeted groups, supporting smallholders and boosting women’s incomes, ensuring clean water and sanitation, education and employment, health care, support for resilience and empowering women in a deliberate attempt to explicitly improve diets and raise levels of nutrition.

Food-based approaches recognize the central role  of food, agriculture and diets in improving nutrition. Agriculture and food-based strategies focus on food as the primary tool for improving the quality of the diet and for addressing and preventing malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies. The approach stresses the multiple benefits derived from enjoying a variety of foods, recognising the nutritional value of food for good nutrition, and the importance and social significance of the agricultural and food sector for supporting rural livelihoods. The multiple social, economic and health benefits associated with successful food-based approaches that lead to year-round availability, access to and consumption of nutritionally adequate amounts and varieties of foods are clear. The nutritional well-being and health of individuals is promoted, incomes and livelihoods supported, and community and national wealth created and protected.

The causal pathway from the food system to nutritional outcomes may be direct - as influenced by the availability and accessibility of diverse, nutritious foods and thus the ability of consumers to choose healthy diets, as well as indirect – mediated through incomes, prices, knowledge and other factors. Interventions that consider and affect food systems as a whole can potentially achieve more widespread nutritional outcomes than single uncoordinated actions.

We invite you to comment on the background papers and materials for the ICN2 made available for this discussion. In addition your comments on the expert papers that have been prepared in response to FAO’s Call for Experts that are available at this link as well as your responses to the following questions would be welcome:

  • Policy issues: What policies can make agriculture and food systems more nutrition-enhancing? What are the knowledge gaps in policies associated with nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems?
  • Programme issues: What do nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems look like? What have been the success stories and lessons learned from programmes at country level? How can we monitor the impact of such programmes on food consumption and nutrition?
  • Partnerships: How can we work across sectors and build strong linkages between food and agriculture, social protection, employment, health, education and other key sectors? How can we create sustainable partnerships? how can we build effective governance for nutrition?

While we encourage you to provide comments on any or all of the above at any stage of the discussion, we propose focus is given in the first week to discussing the first set of questions.

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:

Jody Harris, Senior Research Analyst, Poverty Health and Nutrition Division, IFPRI.

Leslie Amoroso, Programme Officer and member of the ICN2 Secretariat, FAO, Rome, Italy

find out more about the facilitators here

This discussion is now closed. Please contact for any further information.

Pradip Kumar Nath National Institute Of Rural Development, India
Pradip Kumar Nath

Dear all,

Can you please take note of the day of Disaster of the much hyped MID-Day meal in India. The death toll till now is 20. Innocent life of children in school are lost in the CHHAPRA Dister in BIHAR after having the Mid-day meal. [news on India Today, ed.]

Preliminary reports speak about keeping the cereals and pulses in fertiliser packets as the cause of food poisoning.

This is one of the most important programmes and the largest of it's kind in the world for mitigating the problem of Food and Nutrition security amongst the school children.

The crux of the issue is bad governance.

This is the story of many countries.

It is neither the non-availability nor the lack of purchasing power many a times - but bad governance (absence of Rule of law) which is the prime cause of many a soft nations of their inability to address the issue of food insecurity or malnutrition.


No doubt agriculture again has been dictated by the market forces and the technology driven agriculture has resulted in wrong prioritisation of allocation of land for different economic activities and within the agricultural land utilization the priority has been a move towards more commercialization of agricultural land resulting in cash crop (not food items).

Again within the agricultural land utilization, there has been increased tendency for homogenizing the crop variety with least resistance to any eventual agricultural disaster (agri-disasteer).

With least support from both market and the sovereign authority there has been a move from large variety of food items from different nutrients enriched flora & fauna to a few number and variety of food items at the disposal of the rural and indigenous community.

Change in food habits of the so called undeveloped society has been one of the notorious off-shoot of the much-hyped process of development and the process of western world's civilizing the savages.

This wrong development paradigm is at the root of many evils manifested in Food & Nutrition insecurity.

Whenever we are talking about agriculture & food systems we need to understand what is our modus operandi of ensuring food and nutrition security to the burgeoning population on a sustainable basis.

Is it necessarily agriculture alone or we need to think beyond (an out of box approach) to ensure this to the masses in the coming days.

Pradip Kumar Nath, ADJUNCT FACULTY
Centre for Agrarian Studies & Disadter Mitigation (CAS & DM),
National Institute of Rural Development(NIRD),
Huyderabad, INDIA

Mr. Subhash Mehta Devarao Shivaram Trust, India

SAFE Nutritious Food & Sustainaable Agriculture 

A summary of arguments by Stabinsky, D. and Lim L.C., ‘Ecological agriculture, climate resilience and a roadmap to get there’, is a consistent focus on sustainability (as versus a politically correct or convenient concept of sustainability) prepared for the third session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals held from Wednesday, 22, to Friday, 24 May 2013 at the UN headquarters in New York. The formulation of SDGs was one of the major agreed actions carried forward from the June 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. 

The sessions addressed the following clusters of issues:

Food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture; and drought, desertification, land degradation and water and sanitation. 

Programme of Work for 2013-2014 adopted will facilitate the formulation of the SDGs coverring:

  • Investment in agriculture
  • Focus on smallholder producer communities' access to nutritious food
  • Incentives and subsidies agrgated to finance setting up producer orgs
  • Research locally adapted successful integrated agri knowledge
  • Partnerships to create local human and institutional capacity

The background documents for this is at:

Important elements for consideration: Food Security and Nutrition, and Sustainable Agriculture

1. Increase investment in sustainable agriculture

Sustainable agriculture practices contribute to food security and climate resilience. Governments should specifically reorient agriculture policies and significantly increase funding to support biodiverse, sustainable agriculture, as recommended by the International Assessment on Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). In The Future We Want, which is the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference, paragraphs 110-113 emphasize the importance of sustainable agriculture and the need for increased investment in sustainable agricultural practices. Particularly, in paragraph 111, the need to “maintain natural ecological processes that support food production systems” is recognized, which is a nod towards agro-ec ological principles.

  • Conduct in-depth assessments of agricultural conditions and policies at the national level, to identify both barriers to a transition to sustainable agriculture and gaps in policy, and ensure policy coherence such that sustainable agriculture is promoted and facilitated.
  • Focus national agriculture policy frameworks urgently and immediately on sustainable agriculture. In particular, increase emphasis on the conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity, building healthy soils, and developing and sharing water harvesting and other water management techniques.
  • Devote a large share of the national agricultural budget to promoting sustainable agriculture. The support should include mechanisms (both traditional extension and more far-reaching farmer-to-farmer networking methods) to train farmers in the best options for sustainable agriculture techniques, the development of ecological infrastructure including water supply, improvement of soil fertility, and the provision of credit and marketing.
  • Directly fund adoption of agroecological practices that reduce vulnerability and increase resilience, such as soil-fertility-enriching and climate-resilient practices (e.g., use of compost to enhance soil health, water storage and soil quality).

2. Focus on smallholder farmers and their practices

Agriculture is the most important sector in many developing countries and is central to the survival of hundreds of millions of people. Most agricultural production in these countries involves small land holdings, mainly producing for self-consumption. Women are the key agricultural producers and providers. Hence agriculture is critical for food and livelihood security, and for the approximately 500 million smallholder households, totaling 1.5 billion people, and living on smallholdings of two hectares of land or less. Smallholdings account for 85 percent of the world’s farms.

The role and needs of rural communities are recognized and rural development emphasized in paragraph 109 of The Future We Want, including the need for enhanced access by small producers to credit, markets, secure land tenure and other services. Paragraph 109 also stresses the importance of traditional sustainable agricultural practices, including traditional seed supply systems, including for many indigenous peoples and local communities. This is important in light of the threats that undermine and marginalize such systems and the increasing takeover of the seed supply by a few large multinational corporations.

  • Ensure enhanced access by small producers, women, indigenous peoples and people living in vulnerable situations to credit and other financial services, markets, secure land tenure, health care, social services, education, training, knowledge and appropriate and affordable technologies.
  • Support conservation and use of local knowledge and seeds, as well as support peasant seed systems and community seed banks. In addition, prioritize participatory and formal plant breeding efforts to adapt seeds for future environments, particularly increased temperatures.
  • Improve social safety nets to enable farmers and the rural poor to cope with external shocks climate-related disasters. This includes implementing a range of policies that support the economic viability of smallholder agriculture and thus reduce their vulnerability, for example, improving access to credit for smallholders; and building and reinforcing basic infrastructure, such as water supplies and rural roads that can facilitate access to markets. Special attention and specific support should be given to women smallholder farmers.
  • Strengthen small-scale farmers’, women’s, indigenous and community-based organizations to, among other objectives: access productive resources, participate in agricultural decision-making and share sustainable agriculture approaches.

3.   Dismantle perverse incentives and subsidies that promote unsustainable agriculture

Current agriculture policies are geared to promoting conventional agriculture practices that are unsustainable. Perverse incentives, including those perpetuated under the international trade regime governed by the World Trade Organization and bilateral free trade agreements, entrench this unsustainable system. Agricultural incentives and subsidies therefore need to be redirected away from destructive monocultures and harmful inputs, towards sustainable agriculture practices of the small-farm sector. These need to be phased out in a fair and equitable manner, taking into account the impact on small farmers in developing countries.

  • Avoid and phase out perverse incentives and subsidies that promote or encourage the use of chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and fuel, or that encourage land degradation, while ensuring that impacts on small farmers are addressed in a fair and equitable manner.
  • Reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers by removing tax and pricing policies that contribute to their overuse.
  • Shift subsidy priorities such that the initial costs and risks of farmers’ transition efforts to implement sustainable farming practices are borne by public funds.
  • At the international level, modify key market distortions that act as a disincentive to the transition to sustainable agricultural practices in developing countries. These include the significant subsidization of agricultural production in developed countries and their export to developing countries. As long as these conditions prevail, it is difficult to imagine how developing-country producers can implement a paradigm shift towards sustainable agriculture.

4.   Implement a research and knowledge-sharing agenda towards sustainable agriculture

Paragraph 114 of The Future We Want resolves to enhance agricultural research, extension services, training and education to improve productivity and sustainability. National and global agricultural research agendas have been however dominated by conventional agriculture approaches and the promise of new technologies. Sustainable agriculture has been sidelined, yet it has thrived and has proven successful despite the lack of public support. Research and development efforts must be refocused towards sustainable agriculture, while at the same time strengthening existing farmer knowledge and innovation. Moreover, current agriculture research is dominated by the private sector, which focuses on crops and technologies from which they stand to profit most. This perpetuates industrial, input-dependent agriculture, rather than solutions for the challenges facing developing-country farm ers.

  • Place sustainable agriculture at the forefront of the international and national agriculture research agendas; this means providing public resources for sustainable agriculture interventions.
  • Address current intellectual property systems that act as drivers towards corporate consolidation and corporate dominance of agriculture research, including the issues of patents on living organisms and seeds, as well as plant variety protection consistent with the strict standards of UPOV 1991, which may also impinge on farmers’ rights and affect smallholder agriculture.
  • Generously fund efforts to conserve crop diversity, both in situ and ex situ.
  • Support research on sustainable agriculture approaches that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, such as practices that reduce or eliminate the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers.
  • Identify research priorities in a participatory manner, enabling farmers to play a central role in defining strategic priorities for agricultural research; and increase networking and knowledge sharing between farmers and researchers.
  • Reorient research and extension systems at the national level to support farmer-to-farmer agroecological innovation; increase the capacities of farmer and community organizations to innovate; and strengthen networks and alliances to support, document, and share lessons and best practices.
  • Ensure farmers have access to information about sustainable agriculture practices, through both formal and informal means, including extension services, farmers’ organizations, climate farmer-to-farmer field schools and cross-visits.

5.         Build supportive global partnerships

A range of international institutions can make positive contributions by supporting and enabling the adoption of sustainable agriculture. These institutions should support the range of efforts to be undertaken at national and regional levels, and cooperate and coordinate efforts to mobilize necessary resources at the international level. Public financing and transfer of appropriate technologies by developed countries are needed not only for the adoption of sustainable agriculture but also to put in place the required infrastructure, communications and other enabling conditions. Furthermore, trade commitments made at the multilateral and bilateral levels must provide developing countries enough policy space to enable support for the agriculture sector, expansion of local food production, and effective instruments to provide for local and household food security, farmers’ livelihoods and rural development needs. This is needed before farmers in developing countries can start investing in sustainable agriculture. A universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system that will promote agricultural and rural development in developing countries and contribute to world food security is reaffirmed in paragraph 118 of The Future We Want.

  • Ensure sustainable, predictable and significant public funding for sustainable agriculture, rather than speculative and volatile market-derived funding. International agencies must play an active role in mobilizing public resources.
  • Increase the scale of the work to promote sustainable agriculture practices by the Rome-based UN agencies: FAO, WFP, IFAD. This should include technical support to enable countries to transition to and prioritize sustainable agriculture, and appropriate policy advice that supports its implementation.
  • Encourage CGIAR centres to leverage research and research partnerships, and the funding thereof, which focus on sustainable agriculture, agricultural biodiversity and small farmers in developing countries.
  • Ensure the conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity and related traditional knowledge systems, including through the relevant work on agricultural biodiversity carried out by the FAO and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • Revive the work of the UN for a global framework for corporate accountability, including the reinstatement of obligations under the aborted UN Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations.
  • Implement the outcomes/decisions of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), as the governing body for food, agriculture and rural development policy and related financial issues at the global level, including the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security and the outcomes of the ongoing discussions on Responsible Agricultural Investment. (The important work and inclusive nature of the CFS is reaffirmed in paragraph 115 of The Future We Want.)
  • Eliminate export subsidies in agriculture (in line with WTO Hong Kong Declaration 2005) and substantially and effectively reduce agricultural support and subsidies in developed countries (in line with WTO Doha Declaration 2001) so that distortions in global agricultural trade will be reduced and developing countries’ farmers will have a more level playing field.
  • Prioritise developing countries’ goals of food security and protection of farmers’ livelihoods in free trade agreements (FTAs). The percentage of goods to be subjected to tariff elimination by developing countries should be adjusted if necessary to accommodate the need to exclude sensitive agricultural products from tariff elimination. Ensure that the FTAs provide enough policy space to allow sufficiently high tariffs on agricultural imports that enable the fulfilment of the principles of food security, farmers’ livelihoods and rural development, and to allow countries to rebuild and strengthen their agriculture sector.
  • Ensure that commodity markets operate in an adequately regulated manner that avoids excessive volatility and speculative activities and serves the real needs of both producers and consumers. Address the root causes of excessive food price volatility, including its structural causes, and manage the risks linked to high and excessively volatile prices and their consequences for global food security and nutrition, as well as for smallholder farmers and poor urban dwellers (as emphasized in paragraph 116 of The Future We Want).
Peter Steele Independent Consultant Agricultural Engineer, Italy
Peter Steele

Value of educating school kids

Partnerships with schools

‘Nutrition-enhancing agriculture & food systems’ is a powerful and demanding topic – coming mid-year with the holiday period upon us it’s little wonder perhaps that there have been so few correspondents. Those of us in the northern hemisphere would rather be outside enjoying the sun in the mountains or away for a day at the beach. For all that, there is a deal to be shared and much to be gained from dipping into the portfolio of excellent material already available.

My contribution then pitches in favour of ‘partnerships’ and, apart from that of parent to sibling, just about the most profound platform of all human learning is that of teacher to student. This thing about ‘Give me the child and I’ll give you the man’ (which, according to my brief search on Google, is generally attributed to the Catholic Jesuits Order which, in turn, took it from the teachings of St Francis Xavier).

The point being then is that those strong linkages between food and agriculture and all that this means for encouraging the development of community well-being, strong social responsibilities, understanding of how to eat good foods, lead healthy lives, etc. comes from teaching people when they are at their most responsive phase of development; young, receptive, outward looking and keen to learn and to position themselves in the world around them.

Value of education

Sure, children learn from the moment they are born – and depend upon a handful of people in the family (and the wider community) who have the time, interest and, importantly, the education to make a difference. Teachers are typically at the forefront of change. To some extent this is already covered – both directly and obliquely in the Core Background papers provided for the debate. This assumes that people have sufficient time to explore this bibliography of information and contacts. Mine was a quick over-view but I draw the attention of the debate to the paper by Judiann McNulty ‘Challenges & Issues of Nutrition Education’ published by FAO in 2013. It extends an earlier FAO concept note on nutrition with additional information provided by a review of recently published information.

Read the summary and collect the bibliography for further reference but, in essence, the author highlights the advantages of investing in the education of school kids, the value of school gardens as a practical means of making change and, equally important, the messages that the kids take home to the parents for choice of foods, understanding of nutrition, and the way in which changes can be encouraged from generation to generation.

Reflect back on a life-time spent in the ‘development industries’ and you’ll see the logic of this kind of investment; it’s commonsense really, but how often is the local school struggling for ideas and resources with over-worked staff and an under-funded institutional structure. There is only so much that you can do. An easy starting-point, however, is access to material published by others.

Ethiopian experience

Working in support of a food security project in Ethiopia a short-time back we provided technical inputs, ideas and small funds to estimated 90,000 rural people living around Mekelle Town and in the Northern Shoa, respectively, in the north and centre of the country. Where possible school gardens featured as a means of encouraging change to local diets that are based largely upon livestock products, wild and cultivated green plants and bread made from the Ethiopian staple teff (which looks like what it is – grass seed).  Whole grain teff is a particularly valuable food - high in protein, carbohydrates and fibre. It also has a good amino acid profile including all eight essential amino acids, which means protein content is high quality. Teff is rich in calcium and iron. There is no sugar content. But what you don’t get locally are interesting foods – you imagine eating the local fermented bread – injera two or three times a day (if you’re fortunate). Teff production and preparation as food is also demanding of land, people and fuel (with all those down-stream ramifications for access to resources, smoke-filled kitchens, etc.).

Establish a vegetable garden and grow a range of temperate and semi-temperate food crops – leafy (cabbages, lettuces, Swiss chard, etc.), roots (potatoes, turnips, carrots, etc.), fleshy (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) and legumes (beans, peas, etc.) and you can transform the dietary landscape. Much of what can be grown does not need to be eaten cooked. Walking the hills of a late evening and making our way back to the Land Cruiser after a 10 km circuit, people would thrust handfuls of burnt grain and bunches of carrots at you and, with a smile, say ‘ to sustain you on the road’. The pleasure was mutual – givers giving from relatively limited resources and takers enjoying the rewards of snack foods, but also seeing those new ideas that had become reality over a few years.

Value of information

This is the school kids transferring their ideas home. However, modifying the curriculum in the school to provide for this change can be more demanding. Judiann McNulty’s bibliography lists texts that show you how to approach this challenge; of which a couple of references are worth highlighting. In Ethiopia we used:

FAO. (2005). Setting up and running a school garden: manual for teachers, parents & communities. ISBN 978-92s-5-105408-6. FAO, Rome, Italy.  (Check out part 6What shall we grow to eat – improving nutrition’; information like this is gold dust.)

FAO. (2005). Nutrition education in primary schools: planning guide for curriculum development. Vol. 1 ‘Reader’ & vol. 2. ‘Activities’.  FAO, Rome. Italy. (Comes with five rather complicated wall charts and language is challenging, but that’s where teachers come in handy.)

We also used:

FAO, (2001). Improved nutrition through home gardening: training package for preparing field workers in Africa’. FAO, Rome, Italy (And there is a similar version targeting ‘… field workers in SE Asia’.)

You can source and download these documents free-of-charge at Type the title into the search engine provided.


Today’s school kids represent the next generation in your community; it makes sense to invest in their education by providing an understanding of good eating practices based upon choice of crops and livestock. There is a deal of readily available information with which to help you make the changes required.

Value of trees to nutrition

The point made by your Indian correspondent Subhash Mehta is relevant where, as he says focus upon investment in women and young people in the community helps provide for sustainability with all the implications therein for livelihoods, employment, etc. leading to improved security for both food nutrition and food security. The Ethiopian communities with whom we supported vegetable gardening were living in high desolate hill country – bleak and cold in the winter rains – and devoid of tree cover. Remnants of the indigenous forests that once covered the north-central country remain around the rural churches and similar orthodox institutions (and form the basis for seed harvesting, nurseries, etc.) but elsewhere rural communities fall back on livestock manure as fuel – further impoverishing already poor soils – whilst waiting for their homestead eucalyptus plantations to start producing.

The messages are simply and easy to understand (but far more difficult to implement) that trees are essential for human life.

Value of humour

And a brief aside highlighting the downside of the debate, but one that can only bring a dubious smile to readers; the contribution made by Robert Best of Trinidad & Tobago. Whether this 30 year old record for consumption of fried chicken, fries and Coke in Port of Spain is really true or not – it is the image that this projects in the mind’s eye.

Perhaps this a nutritional phase that all countries have to explore (and endure) as they develop? Mexico has recently over-taken the US as the ‘world’s fattest country’ (again, according to my Google search) with those international fast food companies and their national ‘look-a-likes’ targeting the enthusiastic Hispanic consumer across the American continent.

Happy eating everyone.

Peter Steele
Agricultural Engineer

Mr. Subhash Mehta Devarao Shivaram Trust, India

I have read with interest the contributions made to the consultation and would like to highlight the fact that a key factor why there was no food crises post-Soviet Union collapse in South Caucuses and Central Asian countries after 1992, as seen in Sub Saharan Africa, was the Dekhon / Homestead farming practiced by each family. These farms provided most of the immediate nutritious food needs of vegetables, meat, milk, eggs, fruits, etc., even when inflation was rife.

The NARES, Regional and International  research orgs/ stakeholders have not and are continuing to follow a top down approach, thus ignoring to meet the AR4D needs of the rural poor smallholder producer community ( 85% of farmers) to reduce costs, hunger, malnutrition, poverty, suicides and the effect of climate change whilst improving farm production of homesteads, quality of on farm produced low cost inputs in terms of improved livelihoods, seeds, compost, bio mass, water and irrigation, cultivation techniques, housing of livestock and their upkeep, net income and purchasing power etc. Many out of the box interventions like the funding  for the setting up of producer orgs/ company (PC) GOI doc attached, staffed by professionals (rural youth trained as general practitioners [GPs]/ MBAs in agriculture to take over all responsibilities, manage risks, leaving their members to on farm activities producing nutritious food for their communities and accessible at farm gate price), creating local human and institutional capacity (knowledge/ know how/ technologies/ ICTs and material sciences to manage water, etc., can contribute significantly to increased productivity of nutritious food by homesteads.

Link to an article about smallholder agriculture contributing to better nutrition, by Steve Wiggins and Sharada Keats, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), UK - commissioned by The Hunger Alliance (March 2013):’s%20contribution%20to%20Nutrition%202013.pdf

A couple of excerpts:

Public agricultural research needs to focus on smallholder needs, with technical innovations that are sparing in their use of capital, but which emphasise labour and the skilful application to local circumstances: reflecting the relative endowments of smallholders. For very small, part-time farms there is often a call for intermediate technologies that raise yields of food crops without heavy demands for labour or external inputs. 

Farmer-to-farmer learning, especially of agro-ecological approaches with considerable local specificity, can be facilitated and promoted by innovative extension services; research on conservation of soil and water need to recognise how and where local innovations function. 


Develop and promote innovations for marginal farms, focusing on higher yields for staples but using few external inputs and where possible saving labour. These will allow these farms to achieve the self-provisioning in staples that is often a primary objective of the farm, as well as potentially allowing some of the land to be switched to more diverse, nutrient-rich fruit, vegetables and small-scale livestock rearing. 

Responsibility for this lies with agricultural research systems, although for some researchers taking up this challenge may require setting aside the search for optimal yields. There is scope here for NGOs to foster exchange of experiences from local innovations and NGO research. 

Ms. Jody Harris IFPRI, United Kingdom

Feedback by Jody Harris and Leslie Amoroso, facilitators

Dear all,

We would like to give an enormous thanks to those who have already contributed to this discussion. It is a rich discussion, covering important topics, with the diversity of views and perspectives from different fields and geographical areas reflecting the variety of options for nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems.

Recognizing this diversity, and some of the leading current thinking in the different topic areas, core background papers and materials for the ICN2 have been made available to inform this discussion and several expert papers have been prepared. In the next week, we encourage you to read one or more of these materials (those which reflect your own interests), and consider these when making your comments.

The materials are made available at the following links:

Core background papers/materials:

Expert papers:

When thinking about these carefully-chosen materials, do keep in mind the three overarching questions around 1) Policy issues; 2) Programme issues and 3) Partnerships articulated in the introduction; your thoughts on these areas are very much welcomed.

Your comments on the discussion materials and on the three key questions are invited, based on your personal experiences, views and work.

Thank you for your time and for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us (even briefly), and we look forward to receiving your contributions.

Jody and Leslie

Prof. Hélène Delisle University of Montreal, Canada

This is going to be brief. I only wish to highlight a few aspects that may already be there, but that I feel are particularly important:

  1. More nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems requires that at least the agriculture and health sectors be connected and work together. This is already difficult enough, let’s start with these two. Actually, nutrition is at the interface of both sectors. More easily said than done, and it is more difficult at country level than at field level. Strategies to achieve this cooperation should be outlined. At this time, food security is the responsibility of agriculture and nutrition, of the health sector. Even in the health sector there is a cleavage: malnutrition (undernutrition) is handled by maternal and child health division, whereas very little is done relative to ‘overnutrition’: nutrition is so far poorly integrated into NCD programs of the health sectors. This is based on several years of experience in Africa. It may be different elsewhere.
  2. Minor crops and local food systems may require more emphasis for nutrition-enhancing and sustainable agriculture and food systems, as well as for sustainable diets.
  3. Nutrition concerns and objectives have to be integrated into agriculture, and FAO is doing a great job in this regard. More knowledge and emphasis on food systems should also be integrated into health and medicine endeavors.
  4. Much is said and written about policy for programmes and research. I find it quite appalling that so little attention is devoted to competent workforce in nutrition in order to link agriculture, food systems, and health.
Pradip Dey Indian Society of Soil Salinity and Water Quality, India
Pradip Dey

Dear All,

Good day!

Of the five nutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals), the first three are usually highlighted and there is nothing wrong to that considering their prime importance towards energy and body building aspect. However, we also need to consider on other two: vitamins and minerals. Many of child and maternal problems are associated with this two.  Reports on micronutrient malnutrition is increasing day by day. The issue is more severe amongst poor populace. Food fortification may help considerably in solving this problem. Also public awaremess programmes need to be initiated on a large scale.

With warm regards,


Pradip Dey

Kien Nguyen Van Plant Resources Center (PRC), Viet Nam

Dear Sirs/Madams,

In my opinion, needs of nutrition of humankind from agriculture and food systems has not changed, even if it is higher than before. But the way that men want to get nutrition and energy is changed. It are foods and agricultural products that must be convenience for usage, storage and  transportation. Meaningful, agriculture and food system must be fresh, clean and safe in first. Next, agriculture and food system must meet environmental criteria as well as standards of quality and good management under the globalization. Then we could focus on some fields that could help to improve nutrient values from products of agriculture and foods.

1. Indigenous knowledge to  nutrient values of various agricultural products;

This is the simplest way to improve nutrition to poor communities and food shortage; 

2.  Advanced scientific knowledge for agriculture and food systems;

This will help commodities of agriculture and foods is easy for processing, usage, storage and transportation. Whole men, including producers, processors, distributors and consumers will be benefit and profit from these.

3. Policies and mechanism;

To have climate and corridors, policy and mechanism should be developed and implemented to encourage indigenous and advaced scientific knowledge could meet  each others and promote processing industry develop faster than.

 4. Global/ regional standards

The difference of standards will prevent against move of nutrition flows in products of agriculture and foods between nationals and continents.

Best regards,



Mr. Lazarus Dawa Ministry of Health, Papua New Guinea

Dear All,

My contribution to discussion on policy arena on nutrition enhancing agriculture and food system is given here.

From my experience, efforts towards improving good nutrition outcome and improving the food system are still disintegrated, there is missing link and lack of collaboration between the agencies responsible.  The health sector are primarily focusing on interventions to improve nutrition outcome, while the agriculture and livestock sector work on achieving food security.  These two agencies are focal point for achieving positive results in nutrition and food system, however if policies are not compatible to each other then it makes it a harder task to reduce malnutrition and hunger.  Linking and integration of policies are the best option on solving policy issues related reaching a harmonized framework on tackling food and nutrition problems.

Mr. Senkosi Kenneth Forum for Sustainable Agriculture in Africa, Uganda

For nutrition enhancing agriculture and food systems to become a reality, there is need for technology transfer agents, commercial farms with outgrower schemes to institutionalise the practice of enterprise diversification within their operational plans. As farmers become market oriented, some one needs to constantly remind them about the economic benefits of having all nutrients required by their bodies being sourced onfarm. This way agriculture will gradually lead to nutritional security


Kenneth Senkosi