Re: The e-Consultation on Hunger, Food and Nutrition Security

Kaija Korpi-Salmela FAO, Italy

Dear FSN,


Below are some comments on the introduced Themes:


Theme 1:


I agree fully with the targets under MDG 1. However, the chosen indicators for 'reduction by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger' could have been better. Underweight can be attributed to both acute and chronic malnutrition, and therefore it offers a rather weak basis for programming. Stunting, on the other hand, is a good indicator of chronic malnutrition and therefore more suitable as an indicator for a long-term target. Therefore I'm glad to see that stunting, instead of underweight, has been selected for the Zero Hunger Challenge.


The second indicator, 'the proportion of population below the minimum level of dietary energy consumption' is difficult to measure. The minimum level of dietary energy required varies by the sex, age, health status, and level of physical activity. The international standard of 2,100 Kcal/day is only applicable to a part of the population. Therefore any new indicators selected for the post-2015 period should be more practical in terms of a) getting the data and b) planning interventions. 


Main challenges and opportunities: A big opportunity is the heightened global awareness of food security and nutrition as a result of the price crises in recent years. Challenges are posed by increasing population, especially in Africa, water scarcity (especially when not properly managed), and lack of suitable land for expanding cultivation.


Theme 2:


All the raised issues are pertinent to achieving food and nutrition security. These concepts should, however, be broken into more concrete and tangible recommendations and objectives. For example, what do 'political commitment' and 'accountability' really mean in the context of food and nutrition security? After that it would be far easier to evaluate their role and meaningfulness in this context. It also would be worth considering setting different targets for different regions, and even countries, taking their starting point and capacity into consideration. This may, however, be difficult politically.


On achieving nutrition security: basic things account for a lot. Access to education for girls and women, improved care practices, access to safe water and basic health care, and adequate sanitation would go a long way in addressing the problem of malnutrition. Access to adequate food is not enough to combat malnutrition if children (and adults) face infections on a continuous basis due to problems with hygiene and sanitation.


On achieving food security: the key is to focus on smallholders in developing countries. Their access to markets, credit, inputs, and know-how has to be facilitated to enable higher food production, which in turn will improve income levels and food security situation in the households. In order to feed the growing population from only marginally increasing cultivated area, the yield has to increase substantially. In this improved practices such as agroforestry and vertical cultivation (growing food on the same land under the soil, on the ground, and above ground) should bring many advantages.


Theme 3:


All objectives, and at the very least their targets should be time-bound. Without a 'deadline' there is no impetus to achieve results, and preparation of implementation strategies becomes very difficult.


Objective a) This objective is very challenging and almost impossible to monitor. For it to make sense, the targets and indicators need to be a lot more concrete.


Objective b) This is a good objective. In addition, setting of targets and indicators is relatively easy and data for monitoring exists.


Objective c) This is a difficult objective. There is a lot of controversy on what 'sustainability' actually means, and how you would define it. These questions need to be tackled first (from the framework of food and nutrition security) before any targets or indicators can be set.


Objective d) Another objective which is difficult to achieve and hard to monitor. Also, it has to be noted that the poor in rural areas usually have different income sources. They often cultivate land, but food and income from that is rarely enough to cover their food and non-food needs. Most have additional food and income sources, such as casual labour, or gathering and sale of natural resource products. Focus on agricultural production alone would not suffice if the objective remains this wide.


Objective e) An ambitious objective, which focuses on an issue which has not been properly addressed so far. The objective would need to have targets which focus on different parts of the food system (producers, food processing, transport, marketing, and consumers) in order to achieve results.


Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments, this has been very interesting and thought-provoking!