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Integration of food security and nutrition
in forestry planning:
the role of participatory approaches

F. Egal, A. Ngom and P.D. Ndione

Florence Egal is an officer in the Nutrition
Programmes Service of FAO's Food and Nutrition
Alassane Ngom is an Inland Water and Forestry
Expert in Senegal.
Pape Déthié Ndione is the National Forest, Trees
and People Programme (FTPP) Facilitator for Senegal.

A methodology for including nutrition and household food security
sconcerns in forestry planning.

Policies and programmes for natural resource management and environmental protection have traditionally been perceived, managed, implemented and financed independently of those for food security and poverty alleviation. However, where local populations use and manage forests for their livelihood, the forests have an impact on people's food security and nutrition; thus the forestry sector can have a vital role in combating malnutrition. The best way to ensure this would be to improve the quality of life of rural inhabitants by promoting means of livelihood compatible with sustainable management of natural resources.

Children eating the cooked mesocarp of Borassus
aethiopum fruit, Thiès, Senegal


Institutions responsible for forestry programmes in a given country can help to combat malnutrition in two ways:

Studies on the use of forests by local inhabitants and on the contribution of forest products to household food security and nutrition have been on the increase, often initiated by natural resource protection and management programmes to support projects for conservation or better use of underutilized species. Yet there is a need for more studies that not only examine the use, food value or economic potential of particular tree species, but also focus on people's livelihoods. Researchers need to ask, for example, why people will risk heavy fines for cutting trees: hungry people may feel constrained to clear trees illicitly so that they can grow crops to feed their families.

Nutritionists, similarly, must liaise with other sectors in the search for solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition. Nutritionists should not talk about balanced diets without taking account of the different sources of local food, vegetable and animal, domesticated and wild, and without considering how it is prepared; in many areas the availability of fuel determines the frequency, composition and nutritional value of meals.

As is often the case in the development sphere, it is important to work to develop approaches in which the improvement of people's living conditions goes hand in hand with sustainable management of the resources surrounding them. The incorporation of nutritional considerations into forestry planning represents an important step here. This article presents a methodology designed to achieve this, based on participatory approachesapproaches that are participatory not only in the sense of the participation of local people, but of different development sectors as well.

Nutritionists should take into consideration
how food is prepared, as fuel availability
often determines the frequency,
composition and nutritional value of
meals; in the photo, a woman using a
traditional wood-burning stove in Bakel,



The methodology for integrating nutritional concerns into forestry programmes and projects was partly inspired by objective-oriented planning methods. The methodology was developed and tested at a workshop in Thiès, Senegal, in July 1996, organized under the "Support for the National Rural Forestry Programme" project (GCP/SEN/042/NET) and managed by the Community Forestry Unit of the FAO Forestry Department and the FAO Food and Nutrition Division, with assistance from the Forests, Trees and People Programme (FTPP).

The Workshop for the Integration of Nutritional Objectives into Forestry Programmes brought together officers from the central, regional and provincial levels of the Senegal Forestry Department (mostly foresters) and experts from other disciplines (health, sociology, communications, food technology). The participation of representatives of the Forest and Food Security Project (GCP/RAF/303/ITA) of Mali and Burkina Faso, as well as the national FTPP facilitator for Mali, broadened discussion to a regional level.

The participants, divided into multi-disciplinary working groups according to major agro-ecological regions, carried out a simulated planning exercise. Visualization techniques, such as cue cards, were used to organize and record the participants' ideas and suggestions. Each working group session was followed by a plenary session so that points of view could be exchanged and theoretical points cleared up.

An initial plenary session presented and discussed Senegal's main nutritional problems and how they were evolving, as well as clarifying certain nutritional concepts for foresters and other participants who were not nutritionists.

Each working group then identified the interested parties within its zone, i.e. all those organizations - or individuals, as the case may be - concerned with the forestry and nutrition issues: government institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), grassroots (intracommunity) organizations, academic and research institutions, etc. This session brought out the importance of an intersectoral approach, involvement of local inhabitants and collaboration among community, local, regional and central levels.

The groups then identified and prioritized the causes of malnutrition in their zone. From this analysis each group drew up a "problem tree", which was then turned into a "solutions tree". In this way it was possible to clarify and prioritize aims and activities with a view to improving the food and nutrition situation in the zone.

After activities had been set out, each group focused on those falling within the sphere of foresters. For each of the problems (e.g. insufficient access to fuelwood), the group specified indicators (e.g. time spent collecting fuelwood) and identified who to contact to obtain the relevant information, as well as identifying other stakeholders.

This methodology enabled participants to pinpoint concrete interventions that they had not thought of before, such as the protection of watering points, improvements in access roads to open up certain communities, or coordination with nutrition education programmes to promote the production, processing and consumption of forest products. They also identified strategies for effective two-way communication with the local population.

The last group exercise was a simulated meeting among government staff at the regional level, convened by the Water and Forest Conservation Inspector in order to map out a strategy for integrating the nutritional dimension into the region's forestry programmes.

It was concluded that by implementing the approach in a certain number of agro-ecologically, economically and socio-culturally representative zones of the country, the country's Forestry Department could help to improve the food and nutrition status of the population in all zones, and not only where there is unexploited forest potential.

Reflections on the methodology

The effectiveness of the objectiveoriented planning methodology was confirmed by the workshop. Analysis of the causes of malnutrition, the transposition of causes into possible interventions and objectives, the identification of relevant indicators and the use of visualization techniques were seen to be invaluable in developing a reasoned formulation and a consensus of participants from widely differing backgrounds and perspectives. Once the participants had drawn up a strategic framework for improving the food and nutrition situation, even if only in outline form, they were able to specify first what they could do, and then who could or should do the rest. They also realized the need for an effective coordination framework.

This approach is especially effective at the micro level; indeed, the groups that preferred to carry out an overall causal analysis for their zone, rather than one centred on a representative community, found it hard to come to an agreement and to identify practical solutions.

A key difference between this method and traditional objective-oriented planning is that in the latter case identifying the objective is part of the process, whereas in the present method the objective is specified in advance. Workshop participants had to identify the contribution of forestry programmes to an improvement in the food and nutrition status of the inhabitants of their particular zone of operations.

Example of a causal analysis model for nutrition


Good nutrition is essential for human as well as economic development, and the right to food is a basic human right and is thus one of the goals of development. Nutrition is also the outcome of a combination of factors governing the household's food security and health status and its use of available resources. Nutrition - which paradoxically is rarely seen as a problem by population groups with significant levels of malnutrition - is thus an excellent starting point for a comprehensive reflection on the situation of the poorest households (inasmuch as these are at the greatest risk of malnutrition).

Nutrition is an integrating concept that allows correlation of the household's productive and domestic activities with reflection on social aspects (health, education, care of those most at risk) and means of livelihood (farming, forestry, artisanal activities, employment, etc.). Life style and constraints are directly related to the agro-ecological, economic and socio-cultural environment in which different population groups live, and thus vary from one group to another. The construction of a causal model like that in the Figure makes it possible to define and visualize the interface between the food and nutrition system of a household (or group of households) and the various development sectors, including in this particular case that of forestry.

Such a causal model makes it possible to identify a range of solutions appropriate to the local context, and also to identify institutions that can be drawn into the strategy. Involving representatives of these institutions in construction of the model would enrich it and generate the interinstitutional collaboration so vital for any improvement in the local food and nutrition situation.

While the causal model allows interdisciplinary reflection on future strategies, it also forces reflection on the likely impact of current strategies on the food security and nutrition of the groups concerned. This point gave rise to animated discussion during the Thiès workshop, and even to defensive reactions in some of the working groups. For example, since food security in some zones is traditionally based on slash-and-burn shifting cultivation, the enactment and implementation of forest conservation legislation obviously has an impact on nutrition. Sustainable alternatives for income generation (artisanal activities, ecotourism, etc.) do not arise on their own; a systematic strategy is required. One of the workshop's recommendations was the preparation of case studies to raise awareness of such issues among institutions concerned with the protection of natural resources.


As a follow-up to the Thiès workshop, the FTPP team in Senegal is producing a manual on the integration of nutritional objectives into forestry programmes. Its objective is to help decision-makers, planners and others involved in forestry and rural development not only to introduce nutritional objectives into forestry programmes, but also to take account of forest food products in rural development programmes in general. It is intended to serve as both a teaching and an awareness-raising document.

The strategy adopted in order to produce the manual was to hold three workshops (in the north, centre and south of the country) to draw up basic material and to note the concerns and experience of local stakeholders in forestry development.

The workshop for the southern area, including the Kolda, Ziguinchor and Tamba regions, was held at Tamba in March 1998. At the workshop, the Regional Water and Forest Conservation Inspectors of the three regions reported on forest food products and their use (consumption, sale, etc.) in their respective regions. Analyses of the nutritional situations in Kolda and Tamba were also presented. Using the objective-oriented planning method, three working groups analysed the integration of nutrition concerns in three initiatives being developed in Kolda: the Kolda Rural Forestry Project, the ële de Paix NGO and the Kolda Integrated Systems Promotion Project.

However, despite the relevance of the workshop's recommendations, the team responsible for the manual realized that the workshop did not provide a sufficient diversity of viewpoints, and that complementary work was required to incorporate the perspective of the population concerned. The team also felt that the recommendations that had been drawn using the
objective-oriented planning method were still too strategic in approach.

On the basis of these observations the approach was adjusted for the following two sessions, which were organized based on the accelerated participatory research method (méthode accélérée de recherche participative - MARP), with a view to:

The two sessions were held at Bandia (Thiès region) and Nioro (Koalack region), both places sufficiently involved with forests, where conservation issues in State reserved forests are relevant. These sessions made it possible to be more concrete and to look at more realistic and complex contexts.

Following this research in rural contexts, the team of facilitators moved on to the preparation of the manual, which is now in its first draft.

A workshop is planned to analyse the process since the issue of integrating forestry and nutrition was first raised and to continue development of the manual. The workshop will also:

Nutrition considerations included in a forestry project in
Thailand - an early experience

The integration of forestry and nutrition in itself is not a new concept. In the early 1980s, for example, FAO had already incorporated nutrition considerations into the project "Development of Diversified Forest Rehabilitation in Northeast Thailand" (THA/81/004). The project put into practice a methodology developed by FAO to assist planners in the effective incorporation of nutrition objectives into agricultural and rural development projects. The aim was not to give nutrition priority over other goals in development projects, but rather to consider nutrition along with other goals, to ensure that development projects would not be detrimental to nutrition, and that potential opportunities for nutritional improvement should be identified.

The project objectives included, in addition to the rehabilitation of about 10 000 ha of degraded forest resources, improvement of the nutrition and health status of the 8 000 inhabitants of the project area through activities directed at improved socio-
economic status, more equitable distribution of income and improved security of access to food in all seasons (e.g. through development of agroforestry villages and support to forest-related income-generating activities).

Sources: FAO. 1985. Building nutrition considerations into Project THA/81/004, by A. Stuckey, U. Charanasri & T. Boonlue. Field document. Bangkok, Thailand, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

FAO. n.d. Introducing nutrition considerations into the Diversified Forest Rehabilitation Project, North-East Thailand, by B. Thompson. Field document. Rome.

Growing beans around
senegal - the kind of
agroforestry solution that
may evolve when nutritional
are considered in

- FAO/CFU000416/R.


Foresters can promote the organization of similar workshops to the one held at Thiès at the provincial or even district level. The workshops could be organized in close collaboration with institutions concerned with food and nutrition (in most countries, the International Conference on Nutrition has boosted or arranged the establishment of appropriate mechanisms) and would bring together representatives of all institutions (government, NGOs, farmers' organizations, etc.) active at the given level. Insofar as this type of workshop aims at promoting constructive debate on essentially technical issues, the organizers should ensure that the participants selected are capable of contributing to the debate. Experience has shown that it is generally premature to invite villagers at this stage.

Such workshops must however be followed by participatory analysis (MARP, for instance) in a number of representative communities since the perspective of villagers is essential. At that stage, existing information can be enlarged upon and adjustments made in the strategic model established at the workshop. The process of community validation - which will culminate in improvement or reconsideration of the causal model - should involve field agents who know the community well, teachers, facilitators, health workers and forestry and agricultural extension workers. Analysis of the problems and proposed interventions would be discussed first with the villagers and then with local technical and political-administrative authorities, and would finally be incorporated into a strategy for the area.

The recommended participatory approach thus has two components: an intracommunity component in which field agents act as facilitators, and a locally based interinstitutional one. These two components are closely linked, forming part of a progressive process of planning, monitoring and evaluation. In particular, this process should help in the vital matter of bringing together the sectors concerned - not only forestry, but also agriculture (including animal production), health and nutrition.

This participatory approach can be adopted at the central level as in Senegal, or as part of a project, either by local government or by a decentralized institution. The point of entry and the actual mechanisms will vary, depending on the mandate of the facilitating institution, the budget, the time allotted and the human resources available, but the components will be the same. Such an approach is fully in line with current development perspectives and policies, whether those of sustainable development or poverty alleviation, and can be an operational tool for the actors concerned. Since it can create a bridge between environmental issues and human development issues, it should be of special interest to the forestry sector.

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