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

Anna Herforth Independent Consultant, United States of America

Theme 1

One of the lessons learned from the MDGs is that the poverty, hunger, and malnutrition goals within MDG1 were poorly linked, and results poorly correlated.  For example, of the 21 countries that have already achieved the hunger goal, only 6 have achieved the underweight goal; including Mali, which has made no progress on underweight (World Bank Guidance Note on Multisectoral Approaches to Nutrition, forthcoming 2013).  Some indicator of access to diverse foods (such as dietary diversity) is one way that the goals of hunger and improved nutrition can be integrated.

Main opportunity: that there is increasingly interest within the agriculture sector in how to improve nutrition impact.  In my opinion, reframing the concept of food security back to its roots -- nutritious foods for a healthy and active life -- is the single most important thing we can do, from an advocacy perspective.  Agriculture projects often aim for improved food security, and if the common understanding is that food security means diverse, nutritious foods – so that becomes a measured goal of agriculture investments – this would be a giant step toward nutrition outcomes from agriculture.  This general view was also supported within the FSN Forum Discussion 83, by contributions from Rachel Nugent and others.

The main challenge is how to increase incentives and accountability within the agriculture sector to reduce hunger AND malnutrition, while protecting natural resources.  Indicators that measure access to diverse foods, and indicators of sustainability of production and distribution, would be an important part of accountability.


Theme 2

Consensus on how agriculture can work for nutrition would be very helpful to provide a basic idea of how to get action started in national agriculture plans and projects.  FAO has recently supported a Synthesis of Guiding Principles on Agriculture Programming for Nutrition published by a dozen

This report provides several guiding principles, each one supported by a large majority of the institutions, to address hunger, food insecurity and nutrition in an integrated way. A brief is attached.


Theme 3

The objectives should be time bound: this creates the opportunity to determine whether countries are on track or not, which has been politically powerful.

Specific feedback on each objective:

a.       100% access to adequate food all year round: Access to adequate food, of course, needs to be understood as diverse, nutritious foods for a healthy and active life; not just calories.

b.      Zero stunted children less than 2 years old: Given our definition of stunting as -2 SD below the mean, zero stunted children is not possible, since in a healthy population, 2.5% of children will fall below that cutoff. Politically speaking, 0% sounds powerful, so the wording could be changed to 0% excess stunting.

c.       All food systems are sustainable: Sustainability needs to be defined simply and clearly with indicators. Otherwise governments cannot be held accountable to it. Lack of accountability to indicators of sustainability is the bane of decades-long calls for sustainability. Only what gets measured gets managed.  A research agenda put forth by Bioversity International calls for clear metrics on sustainable diets and food systems, certainly an agenda well worth pursuing if we are serious about this goal, as we must be. (

d.      100% increase in smallholder productivity and income: Extremely important that we define productivity and income carefully.  If productivity is taken to mean tonnes/ha of staple grains, that would be a missed opportunity, not what is most important as a global target to reducing hunger.  Micronutrient deficiencies (hidden hunger) persist, and we have much more obesity now than in 1990.  Increasing just staple grains and calories will not solve these problems.  Productivity increases for non-staple crops (legumes, vegetables, fruits) are essential to balance local and global diets.  Income also must be carefully defined.  Women’s income is particularly important for hunger and malnutrition reductions.  If we focus only on the household level, we may miss the most important route income can take: through the hands of women.

e.      Zero loss or waste of food: Reducing food waste is a no-brainer for increasing food availability, and I very much support its inclusion in this list of targets.  Food waste is also tied to water waste, which is also critical to human well-being (see SIWI report link below).  Again, clear indicators need to be identified for different stages: production, transport, marketing, and consumption. Addressing aflatoxins in soils and storage is an important component of reducing food waste, since contaminated grain should not be consumed.