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

Kamila Mukhamedkhanova Center for Economic Research , Uzbekistan

Exactly in the middle of the 15 year MDG period the World suffered from the food crisis.  Due to the crisis, achievements of MDGs on hunger, food and nutrition security witnessed during the 1990-s and 2000-s were reversed significantly in many countries.  

The crisis has become an indication that it is time to reconsider radically the model and approach to food policies, implemented in many countries so far and revise the framework of development goals in the terms of food and nutrition security.  

The main question is what the new model should be based on and what is the set of revised MDGs on food and nutrition for the post-2015 agenda?

Sustainable Food Policies: A Striking Case of Uzbekistan

To find out an answer we can look at the experience of countries which were successful in the terms of implementing sustainable food and nutrition policy and managed to provide effective results even during the crises.  

A striking example of such an economy is Uzbekistan. The main feature of the food policy framework in Uzbekistan was the holistic approach to the issue. In fact, in Uzbekistan since the early years of independence the problem of food and nutrition security has been a part of an enormously complex policy agenda of socio-economic development. Hence, Uzbekistan had to strike a delicate balance between several, at times conflicting objectives – steeply increasing its own food production; finding a new place in the global economy; generating investment resources for industry and infrastructure development; maintaining safety nets for the growing population, and gradually implementing market reforms and supporting the nascent private sector.

Food security has always been considered as a complex problem including a triad of the requirements: a) adequate aggregate supply; b) proper access to food across the population (especially across the vulnerable groups of the population); c) safety and quality of food.

As a result, Uzbekistan was better prepared than many other countries to the recent surge of new threats to food security. In particular, self-sufficiency in wheat and some other key food products provided a cushion against adverse global trends and mitigated their destabilizing effect for the national economy and households’ welfare.

The important difference of Uzbekistan’s approach to food security from that of other countries was the combination of market and non-market instruments and components. Although this often drew the international criticism, at present elements of such an approach are replicated by other countries searching for more reliable and effective means to ensure food security at a time of global economic instability.

In a Search of an Effective Balance: Focus on the Systemic Approach     

The facts above provide the evidence that in order to be sustainable and effective, the system of food policy goals for the future needs to be oriented at seeking the effective balance to put in better use the national resources of each country, prepare adequate and timely responses to possible adverse shocks, taking into account internal processes, related to economic, social and other transformations within the economies.

It is also important, that the system adjusts to the changes occurring, copes with the negative impact of multiple crises in various areas being pro-cyclical during growth and counter-cyclical while the downturn.

To find an effective balance, the new post MDG framework should implement the holistic approach. The main difference of post-MDG agenda from the current one should be that the goals are not oriented at one area (like hunger or malnutrition), but are cross-sectional and related to a number of areas simultaneously, thus ensuring the achievement of the overall development objectives. In other words, the goals and indicators within the new system will not be considered separately but only as the elements of the whole system.

The new post-2015 framework  also needs to take into account the future development trends for the medium and long term.  For instance, it is important to bear in mind that the growing population will increasingly put stress on the current food systems. Transformation of the demographic and social structure of the society, urbanization trends and growing income of the population will change the behavioral stereotypes and pattern of the nutrition, thus transforming the demand for food products and changing the pattern of agricultural production. It is also clear that the increasing pressure on water and land resources will require to improve agricultural productivity and provide the effective land and water management; the aggravating problem of increasing food losses will put further strain on food availability.

Based on these ideas, below is our vision on the set of goals, that could be developed to ensure food and nutrition security within the post-2015 development framework:

New Goals on Food and Nutrition for the Post-MDG Agenda: Our Vision

1. Ensure adequate aggregate supply of food by improving agricultural productivity.

More ambitious food security targets and tightening resource constraints leave no alternatives to increasing agricultural productivity as the basis for future food security. Institutions, technologies, infrastructure and government policies should be integrated within a holistic food security strategy to increase returns to all key agricultural inputs – land, water, labor and capital.

This goal should be strongly linked to the goals on technological development and structural transformations as well as the environmental goals in the terms of effective land and water management.

  1. 2. Ensure proper access to food across the population (especially across the vulnerable groups of the population)

This goal should be strongly linked to the strategies on poverty reduction, reformation of model of social protection, gender mainstream, labor market strategies, policies to cope with the income differentiation.

  1. 3. Provide the effective distribution of food.

In fact, in most of the cases food and nutrition security is not a problem of availability, but a problem of effective distribution.  The effective distribution of food is in turn, strongly related to the governance reformation. As a result, this goal is strongly linked with the reformation of governance and institutions at all levels.

  1. 4. Ensure safe and healthy nutrition (this indicator is not included  into the set of objectives under Zero Hunger Challenge in any form )

Safe and nutritious food is both a valuable outcome and important factor of economic development. As an outcome, it is an integral factor of the food security triad. As a factor, it constitutes a major investment in human capital accumulation, contributing to a healthy and productive workforce. Food quality prevents economic losses caused by diseases, and saves health care expenditures.

Therefore, this goal is strongly linked to social policies (healthcare) and social protection, governance reformation, etc.

  1. 5. Ensure food security policies contribute much to the environmental sustainability. The following aspects of the linkage of food security goals with the environmental ones are of particular importance:

Effective land and water management (this point is linked to the first goal, as the effective land and water management is an important factor of improving agricultural productivity while implementing the resource efficient development pattern;

Zero loss or waste of food (this point is very much linked to the new resource efficient pattern of development which also needs to be considered within the post-MDG development framework);

Energy sustainability (in fact, there is a strong positive relationship between the prices for gas and oil and prices for food. If the energy sustainability is provided and prices for the conventional energy sources are not soaring up, the food prices are also likely to remain stable);

Climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies also contribute much to ensure food security policies;

As it could be seen each goal to be suggested for the post-MDG agenda is strongly linked with the other goals of the system. We suggest the overall goals to be the same for all countries. However, taking into account that there is no one size fits all, the indicators and target parameters should be specific for each country depending on its national development strategy and objectives.

Kamila Mukhamedkhanova, Research Coordinator, Center for Economic Research, Uzbekistan

Relevant researches:

Conceptual approach to Green Economy in Uzbekistan;

Food security in Uzbekistan after 2010: News challenges and policy responses