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Re : Mettre l’agriculture au service de la nutrition: Prioriser l’action à l’échelon national, la recherche et le soutien

Etienne du Vachat Action contre la Faim - ACF (Action Against Hunger), France
08.10.2012
Etienne

Dear all,

First of all, we would like to thank the moderators for the important topic of this consultation which echoes many current initiatives in a constructive way. Action Against Hunger - ACF has really appreciated the quality of the FAO report "Synthesis of Guiding Principles on Agriculture Programing for Nutrition" and shares its recommendations. Maximising the nutritional impact of our interventions in food security and agriculture - as well as in other sectors - is a main challenge for us.

1. If you were designing an agricultural investment programme, what are the top 5 things you would do to maximize its impact on nutrition?

Targeting the 5 key actions is a difficult task indeed when eventually a holistic approach, looking at the global coherence (particularly with regard to 'doing no harm') of the intervention, will be required. It's such a holistic approach which is needed around the following 5 main issues to make agriculture work for nutrition: 

- A better nutrition (and the protection of the nutritional status of the populations) as an explicit goal of programmes and policies in agriculture and nutritional outcome indicators to measure the long-term effects. To this end, ensuring the availability of nutritional statistics for agricultural decision-makers at all level, to be used as references, outcome indicators, etc., is highly needed.

- A better understanding and consideration of the nutritional situation and trends, the seasonality of under-nutrition, its causes, the identification of the most at-risk groups (the most vulnerableand the most affected by undernutrition), etc., by the 'programers' as well as the 'implementors' (agricultural extensionists for instance). This requires stronger knowledge in nutrition AND a closer coordination between sectors. To this regard, trainings of Ministry of Agriculture staffs on the importance of nutrition, the use of nutritional indicators, the links between agriculture and nutrition and the need for multisectoral approaches is a high priority. This should be done within the broader capacity building and strengthening of the national agricultural extension systems.

- A stronger attention to the nutritional value of crops  (vs their commercial value only), including biodiversity and local knowledge. This includes promoting diversification of crops and livelihoods, especially with diverse nutrient-rich food crops. A focus on post-harvest nutrient conservation is very much needed as well.

- A better understanding and systematic consideration of the key role women play at the same time in agricultural/livelihoods activities, household members diet and care practices. Ensure agricultural programs are actually benefiting and empowering women, mainstreaming gender issues in their different dimensions: availability of food, income, access to land, knowledge and inputs, not increasing time constraints, etc.

- Systematically questioning at each step of programme development what impacts, positive and negative, it can have on nutrition to adjust accordingly. In this regard, the IYCN Nutritional Impact Assessment Tool is a very practical tool to facilitate this process. Here again, support and inputs from nutrition experts is required.

Here we want to stress that there is a strong risk that stand-alone specific actions (targeted on one causal factor for instance) will not be the most effective to tackle undernutrition. 

2. To support the design and implementation of this programme, where would you like to see more research done, and why?

Clearly, there is a need to identify "what works" for improved nutrition and to experiment different approaches and programmes, to capitalize and scale-up the lessons learned at the national policy level.

3. What can our institutions do to help country governments commit to action around your recommendations, and to help ensure implementation will be effective?

This is a very important point. The SUN roadmap is actually quite light on this issue of 'nutrition sensitive agriculture' and needs to be strengthened. we want to suggest the production of a framework document or roadmap based on the 'guiding principles on Agriculture Programing for Nutrition' targeted at national government decision-makers. This should be done ideally within a high level, inclusive forum or platform to foster consensus and agree on priorities. 

To this regard, we would like to draw your attention on a recent ACF report on the main strengthes and weaknesses of the SUN implementation at country level (with two focus on Niger and Banglagesh), available: http://www.actioncontrelafaim.org/sites/default/files/publications/fichiers/underthesunreportacf.pdf. One of the recommendations is to work towards defining what 'nutrition-sensitive' interventions should look like and building consensus on that. "Determining what a mutlisectoral approach and effective 'nutrition sensitive' interventions should be is proving to be difficult at country level, which has led to calls for more efforts on evidence building to help determining what effective 'nutrition sensitive' interventions should be." (see page 63)

This should be done with a focus on different key sectors (obviously including agriculture but also education, social protection, water and sanitation, women empowerment, reproductive health and family planning).

We hope this will contribute to the discussion.