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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.

B.P.Gangadhara swamy CCF-India, India
B.P.Gangadhara swamy

Dear Sir/Madam,
Please find my contribution for the current topic
1. Special packages for poor farmers who grows minor millets, vegetables and fruits.  Free supply of seeds and fertilizers and ensuring buy back system.
2. When government is supplying free seeds of any food crop to farmers, let it be mixed with minor millets, leafy vegetable seeds, oil crop seeds in it. Then farmers will grow it and will harvest different crops, which are nutritional and it will get them extra incomes.
3. Some of countries like India are supplying grains at low prices to poor people. Instead of supplying whole grains, let the government introduce both whole grain and also the flour containing cereals, pulses and oil crops. People will make nutritious bread, chapatti, any food recipe out of that, which is nutritious.
4. Women are the custodians of food practices, let the government involve women in all policy making decisions.
5. Develop area wise agriculture plans to ensure to demand and supply of nutrient food crops within the area, to minimize the costs of production and transport.
6. Develop the good storage and value addition activities to ensure the food supply throughout the year.
7. Bring very strict laws to stop food wastage at hotels, during functions and ceremonies.
8. Fix the food quantities at hotels, in most of the hotels they supply huge quantities of food, which cannot eaten by single person to get more money from him. Hence strict laws should be brought to minimize these food wastage.
With Regards

Ms. pratiksha shrestha Jagdamba Foods, Nepal

Dear all,

For nutrition enhancing agriculture systems, we should not forget about safe food distribution chain. ie. from farmers to consumers. Preventing all kind of biological, chemical and physical hazards would only deliver the intended food in the system.

Thanks and regards

Pratiksha Shrestha

Mr. Subhash Mehta Devarao Shivaram Trust, India

Trees on farms are essential for global production of nutritious food  

My inputs are incorporated in,

Summary of the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition, held at FAO headquarters, Rome, Italy, 13–15 May 2013'

• The role of trees on farms in the fight against hunger and malnutrition demands much greater attention and should be integrated with strategies for food and nutrition security.

• Nutritious Food security is grounded in diversity – in terms of biota, landscapes, cultures, diets, integrated agriculture and management. Forests and trees are critical for maintaining that diversity.

• The ecosystem services provided by forests and trees make essential contributions to forest dependent communities and integrated agriculture for, among other things, protecting soil and water, maintaining soil fertility, effects of climate change, providing habitat for wild pollinators and the predators of agricultural pests.

• Forest tree products as part of integrated agriculture of the area have been important components of rural  nutritious food diets for millennia and today provide essential nutrition for millions of people. More than one-third of the world’s people rely on wood fuel for cooking, fodder for cattle and bio mass as a low cost producer of farm inputs.

• Forests and trees on farms and their sustainable management are crucial for ensuring the resilience of low cost nutritious food-production systems in the face of climate change, economic, social and political instability by ensuring access to the poor rural smallholder producer communities. Forest and trees on integrated farms reduces effect of climate change, cost of production, hunger, malnutrition and poverty whilst improving livelihood, net income and purchasing power based on increased sources of income thus contributing to building resilience.

• There are opportunities to use more forest species, especially plants and insects, for the large scale production of nutritious food. However, deforestation and forest degradation risks the loss of many such species.

• The single biggest cause of forest loss is mono cropping in agricultural expansion, but there is potential for both by following the local integrated agricultural system and protecting forests, including through the restoration of degraded forest land, with the greater use of trees in agriculture, and the alignment of policies and institutional frameworks to that end.

• Secure land and forest tenure and ensure equitable access to public resources for women/ local communities and who will encourage sustainable forest and tree based approaches to nutritious food security.

• There is a need to retrieve, document and make available the traditional knowledge of integrated agriculture as applicable to the soil and climatic conditions of each area and to combine it with scientific knowledge to increase the role of forests and trees in food and nutrition security.

• Women often have specialized knowledge of forests and trees in terms of species diversity for the local integrated agriculture, uses for various purposes, and conservation and sustainable management practices, thus ensuring the food and nutrition security of forest-dependent communities.

• Greater collaboration at the local and national levels is needed to improve data collection, documentation, communication, reporting, monitoring & evaluation of the contributions made by non-wood forest products, forest ecosystem services and other forest and tree related aspects on nutritious food security.

• Training and creating local capacity in the women and youth for management of sustainable forest enterprises can help forest-dependent communities, to add value, increase shelf life of the produce, to minimize post harvest losses and gain access to higher prices, thereby improving livelihood, net income and purchasing power and the food and nutrition security of such communities by helping them to capitalize on their traditional knowledge.

• Governments, civil society, indigenous peoples, bilateral and multilateral development assistance agencies, the producer organisations/ company (PC) and other stakeholders are invited to strengthen the contributions of forests and trees on farms to food and nutrition security through a number of feasible actions, listed in the full summary.

2 As used in this summary, the term “trees outside forests” encompasses agroforestry systems, other trees on farms, and trees in non-forested rural landscapes.

Dr. Lisa Kitinoja The Postharvest Education Foundation, United States of America

Dear moderators,

Excellent topic and questions, thank you. I would like to comment on the following:

Policy issues: 

What policies can make agriculture and food systems more nutrition-enhancing? 

Many projects and programs (funded by international donors, national governments, charity organizations or businesses during the past 4 decades) seem to have focused mainly on crops that provide calories (staple grains and root crops) rather than nutritious foods such as vegetables, fermented foods, fruits, nuts, dairy products, etc.  Policies that deliberately target or at least include these "other" foods would be very helpful in enhancing nutrition.  Putting an emphasis on reducing food losses/waste can protect limited resources (now spent on producing foods that often go to waste). 

What are the knowledge gaps in policies associated with nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems?

An important knowledge gap is the lack of information on local costs and benefits of producing, handling, processing and marketing these many nutritious types of foods.  Only when agriculture and food systems are profitable for those involved will they be sustainable and likely to move beyond the "trial" or "project" stage. 

Dr. Lisa Kitinoja
The Postharvest Education Foundation
PO Box 38, La Pine, Oregon 97739 USA
Website homepage:
Mobile phone: (916) 708-7218 
Follow us on Twitter: @PostharvestOrg

Prabir Dutta , India
FSN Forum

When we talk of Agriculture we stress only on foods of plant origin ignoring the foods of animal origin.
But foods of animal origin are nutritious (milk, eggs, etc). So policy should be taken up that foods of animal origin are being considered important addition in agriculture production system as a policy.
If we look in average life expectancy found most of the developed countries are not depended on plant foods only. The per capita consumption of milk, egg and meats have a great role to form healthy foods besides income generation of the poor people.

Yours sincerely
Dr Prabir Dutta

Robert A Best West Indian Projects , Trinidad and Tobago
Robert A

I think the comments so far have been very interesting.

Several diverse comments.

In the Caribbean there seems, I may be wrong, not to be many food distribution services industry policies and development except in response to rising food prices. Supermarket penetration is increasing and their share of local (and imported) fruit and vegetable sales is increasing. But I sense that there is a role for more purposeful development of public infrastructure in fresh markets that can provide fresh local nutritious foods (tropical roots, fruit, vegetables, unprocessed meats) possibly at lower prices to villages and towns .. as well as road side commuting community. I know of several markets in Jamaica, for example, where the public sector had provided road side rapid-markets where the commuting public can buy local foods as well as fresh fruit and vegetables (especially those which are local).

See the link to the report: “An assessment of the agri-food distribution services industry in CARICOM”

The fast food issue. We can’t get away from it. In the 1980s the store with the greatest turnover in the world was in Port of Spain Trinidad and Tobago, which at that time had a population of around 1m people. Fried chicken, fries and coke!!! Recently a fast food outlet from Latin America introduced a menu that addressed the interest in consumers for improved nutrition .. grilled meats, fish soup, steamed cassava, boiled/ stewed black beans, steamed sweet corn, fresh salads ..... AND the minister of Food Production stepped in to encourage (public sector insistence) that they purchase locally produced sweet potato chips which is a step in the right direction (I would prefer if they were baked). Policy makers though trade measures, investment incentives, sharing improved nutrition formats to potential investors, consumer education programs and moral suasion can influence the options and choices that consumers make and link the fast food sector more closely with domestic value chains serving value added versions of traditionally healthy foods.

Local content policy. The government is one of the largest single procurement of food through its school feeding and institutional procurement programmes. In some countries, like Trinidad and Tobago, this is amplified since the government owns (the physical assets) of the three largest companies and sends most government business there. Also since governments are also major share holders in other entities airlines, natural resource extraction company, together with their own direct purchases, they can important direct purchasing and indirect purchasing influence of the domestic and regional (CARICOM) procurement strategies. Now this already happens in developed countries, but now the Trinidad and Tobago private sector is arguing for a domestic local purchasing strategy and in food they are linking this to good nutrition (fresh as opposed to two year old frozen chicken way past their sell by date, fresh eggs as opposed to dried powdered eggs, local milk, local roots, fruits and vegetable, etc). And development support from the Government to transform local healthy products to meet the needs of modern consumers and distribution formats.

Some ideas for you to throw into the good policies for good nutrition pot ... !!!

Dr. Eileen Omosa We Grow Ideas, Canada

Hi there,

I have three suggestions interlinking the three levels i.e. policy, programme and partnerships: Nutrition enhancing agriculture starts with the seed we put into the soil; has it been stripped-off some nutritional elements or not. Does the seed demand for monocroping which results in mono-consumption or is the seed friendly to other food crops on the farm? To respond to issues of agricultural production of nutritious food, calls for the media, extension agents, education system, healthcare providers, and policy makers to encourage the continued consumption of `good food' - nutritionally. A good example is the partnerships witnessed in Kenya in the 1980s and 1990s. The new government at that time took up agriculture=nutrition=wellbeing through consumption of locally available and affordable foods as one way to announce its presence to the citizen. With the knowledge that majority of families owned a radio and listened to national news at least three times a day; the practice was that a patriotic or nutrition related song was played on radio at the end of the news broadcast. There was also reference to where anyone in doubt could get detailed information, including schools, hospitals, clinics, extension agents, etc. Similar information was shared to women at pre and post natal clinic visits. It was during that decade, when as a teenager that I acquired my current knowledge on individual agricultural food crops (indigenous and introduced) and their nutritional value, which I practice to date.

Policy and partnerships come in at the level of marketing. Governments and other development agencies need to borrow something on marketing from the private sector, especially the private sector in fast foods. I am not advocating for regulation; that will waste precious time and resources in courts, I am advocating for informed competition: With the widespread use of public and social media, people in both rural and urban areas rely on media messages to reach certain decisions. It is time policy makers and advocates of agriculture for good nutrition  embraced the use of public and social media, otherwise, as I have said before through a different forum, mothers will sell the eggs, bananas and millet that they grow on their farms to purchase bread and a soft drink for their children. WHY, because they have seen and heard in the media that such purchased foods will make their children happy and proud of them; a goal sought after by many parents.

Partnerships: Once we spread the message on the simple cost-benefit linkages in  nutrition-oriented agriculture, good health and wealth/lower medical costs. Once more people get reminded of the role of nutrition in wellbeing, they will start looking for nutrition filled agricultural products, and anyone interested in business will become a supplier with little effort. The best evidence is in the vegetable section of larger grocery stores in Nairobi and other major cities. My near future study is to analyze implications of the urban consumption of indigenous foods to the nutrion-well being of rural households. The folks in cities are in search of nutritious foods, they got to know that the most affordable nutition is found in indigenous foods, and the private sector has benefited by making such foods available, from rural farms where they are grown. A partnership between private sector in urban settings and rural farm workers.

Thanks and more examples can be found at


Mr. Pankaj Kumar Ethiopia

This response tries to answer the question: 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?

Food fortification  has been recognised as one of the important strategy for increase the micro-nutrient content of available foods, especially post farm gate level. In the context of Ethiopia, this is essentially important as Food Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, also known as micronutrient malnutrition, represent a severe public health problem in Ethiopia. More than half of children and a quarter of adult women are anaemic.1 Nearly 40% of children are vitamin A deficient.2 As a consequence, the nation’s GDP is depressed by nearly half a billion dollars annually and each year more than 50 thousand children die as a consequence of vitamin A, iron and folic acid deficiencies. These losses limit capacity to meet national objectives for reducing mortality, poverty and malnutrition as well as economic development.

The National Nutrition Program (NNP) presents an opportunity to build on the current portfolio of affordable and effective micronutrient interventions and bring them to full scale. Food fortification can play a key role within the context of comprehensive multiple strategies to reduce micronutrient deficiencies. Wheat flour, edible oil and sugar are three traditionally proven food fortification vehicles with high consumption, wide distribution and centralized processing required by fortification. This report assesses the feasibility of a national fortification program including these three food vehicles.

Based on this, Concern Worldwide with support from the World Bank undertook an assessment of Food Fortification and its potential in Ethiopia ( copy of the report is enclosed). This answered the current level of food fortification initiatives and the knowledge gap. The report was approved by the Government of Ethiopia and the findings from the study were used to influence new National Nutrition Programme (2013-2015). The findings are also being used to develop capacity building strategy for Food Fortification Initiatives. Once implement, this will help the country to reduce micro-nutrient deficiencies in a large scale.

Kind regards,

Concern Worldwide

See the attachment:Food Fortification Report.pdf
Ms. Maria Antip Policy Analyst at International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), ...

Dear all,

In order to make agriculture and food systems more nutrition-enhancing, the fertilizer industry proposes a focus and macro and micro nutrient fertilization. Therefore, we ask the members of the FSN to have a look at our newly-released project: three infographics on crop fertilization to address malnutrition.

These graphics constitute a visual vehicle for the scientific research findings published in the Fertilizing Crops to Improve Human Health: A Scientific Review publication jointly published by the Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA) and the International Plant Nutrition Institute(IPNI) in late 2012. Both the infographics and the scientific review are part of the fertilizer industry’s efforts to improve food security and nutrition. The fertilizer industry is actively engaged in demonstrating the importance of soil health conservation, nutrient management, sustainable intensification and nutrition. IFA is a strong advocate of developing new post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals that clearly aim at eradicating hunger and malnutrition and promoting sustainable agricultural practices.

Key messages about how macro and micro nutrient fertilization can enhance food systems by increasing:

·         Quality: adding fertilizers and micronutrients to soil can increase the content, composition and bioavailability of vitamins and nutrients.

·         Quantity: Deficiencies in nutrients reduce crop yields of 40-60%.

·         Diversity: Adding macro and micro nutrients through fertilization can positively impact crop texture, flavor and shelf life.

·         Safety: Fertilizers diminish human health risks; for example Selenium reduces incidence of heart disease.

The infographics highlight the significant improvements that can be made to crop productivity, livestock health and people’s nutrition by simply adding micronutrients to regular fertilizer products. For most micronutrients, if the soils are deficient, the same deficiency is found in the crops, the animals and the people. One of the infographics describes some key examples of successful strategies implemented in Europe, Asia and Oceania. In Finland, for example, the government implemented the addition of Selenium to fertilizers in order to help tackle heart disease. Turkey, on the other hand, has been adding Zinc, resulting in increased wheat yields in Central Anatolia.

We stress the fact that micronutrient fertilization is a simple, affordable and sustainable solution to contribute to eradicating deficiencies globally, in particular in the case of zinc, selenium and iodine. This makes it a viable program which can be tailored to regional and national needs and implemented worldwide. Partnerships already exist in many countries but the scale of the work needs further dissemination of these important findings provided in IFA-IPNI’s scientific review.

Macro and micro nutrient fertilization directly addresses one of the five goals of the Zero Hunger Challenge, namely the eradication of stunting. In addition, the growing concerns about macro and micro nutrient deficiencies in food have been addressed by the updated Lancet report on mother and child nutrition, published in June, which highlights the imperative need for better nutrient data at national level in order to devise a global approach targeting hidden hunger hotspots.

Further info and resources can be found my accessing the links below:

·         IFA infographics:


·         Fertilizing Crops to Improve Human Health: A Scientific Review:


·         Lancet Report:

See the attachment:IFA_Infographic_POSTER_1.pdf
Mr. Ryan Nehring Cornell University, IFPRI, UNDP-IPC, United States of America

Dear all, 

The creation of a decentralized food system through institutional markets and procurement incorporates local control, participation and increased access to nutritional and culturally-appropriate food. Brazil's Food Aquisition Program (Programa de Aquisição de Alimentos - PAA) is a case in which the federal government funds the procurement of food from family farmers based on numerous modalities at different scales.

More recently, this experience has expanded to a pilot programme in five African countries under cooperation of the FAO Brasil, WFP, the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC) and African governments (Malawi, Senegal, Niger, Mozambique and Ethiopia - A PAA-style policy strengthens local economies, producer organizations and cooperatives as well as the relationship between different levels of government and civil society.

I encourage you all to look at a study we undertook at the UNDP - International Policy Center for Inclusive Growth that looks at the process of scaling-up the PAA in Northeastern Brazil. Thank you, 

Ryan Nehring

See the attachment:Nehring_McKay_2013_PAA.pdf