Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Thank you for giving the opportunity to discuss such an important issue. It is not new: back in the ‘80s, FAO was into integrating nutrition into agriculture training and several manuals were produced; I was involved in this work. What is new is the “name of the game”: agriculture should now be “nutrition-sensitive”, which is more or less the same. I do think there has been progress along those lines, but better integration of nutrition and agriculture requires renewed effort.

Indeed, food, nutrition, health and the environment cannot be dissociated and these links should be at the forefront of the training in all relevant disciplines.

There have been many interesting comments – I am late in commenting as I wanted first to read the discussion points. Several relevant recommendations have already been formulated, including in the World Bank Group paper in India by Babu et al. I will only remind a few and add my personal views.

  1. The whole food system and its sustainability needs to be understood, considered and analyzed, whatever the level of training.
  2. Agriculture also includes animal science, and nutrition, health and environmental concerns should go beyond production to also encompass post-harvest processes, processing and consumption. The concept of nutrition value chain is key to integrating nutrition into agriculture, in order to preserve or improve the nutritional quality of the foods all along the chain.
  3. What specific nutrition competencies to be developed during training of agronomists, extension workers, field agents, etc., should be the starting point. The competencies at various levels should be complementary.
  4. Once the specific competencies are identified, and this exercise has to be location-specific, then the training objectives, the curriculum content and the evaluation methods can be defined.
  5. In order for agriculture training to become more nutrition sensitive, a higher awareness of the above-mentioned links is required among faculty and other stakeholders: advocacy is essential. Unless the decision-makers for agriculture training and agriculture programs are convinced, business will continue as usual.
  6. Beyond curriculum content, the means of training may have to be renewed, using problem-solving approaches, field exercises, case studies, et., instead of the still too common classroom-type of teaching.
  7. Agriculture people should be able to (this list is not exhaustive):
    1. Appreciate the impact of the food system on the foods consumed and the nutrition and health of the population, while also considering its environmental impact;
    2. Understand and improve the nutrition value chains;
    3. Encourage the production, conservation and appropriate (limited) processing of local foods that have an interesting nutritional profile;
    4. Assess using simple methods food security and diversity at community and household level;
    5. Have minimum knowledge on the nutrition challenges in the community and on (local) food sources of major nutrients;
    6. Be familiar with food and nutrition strategies of the country, as well as existing programs and tools;
    7. Provide basic nutrition education to the producers;
    8. Collaborate with nutrition, health and environment professionnals.
  8. In order to develop such competencies, we feel that a separate (albeit short) nutrition course would be needed, in addition to integrating nutrition concerns and aspects wherever it is possible and relevant in the curriculum;
  9. It may be important to conduct a curriculum review at country or regional level, as was done in West Africa by Roger Sodjinou and colleagues, in order to identify the gaps and weaknesses;
  10. Let us not forget that research is critical to improve food and nutrition security through agriculture. Transdisciplinary research has to be promoted in Agriculture Schools, Universities, or Faculties.