BMEL and FAO’s efforts to eradicate hunger and malnutrition

The story of a long-standing collaboration between Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and FAO

11/11/2016 - 

With the aim to meet FAO’s Strategic Objective 1 to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and FAO have implemented solutions to improve the nutritional impact of agriculture and food systems from community to the national and regional levels, within the framework of a Bilateral Trust Fund (BTF) set up in 2002. Since then, over 100 projects have been supported through the BTF.

It all began in Afghanistan, where BMEL and FAO collaborated as part of a project designed to strengthen information systems for food and nutrition security. This led to support Afghanistan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) to improve nutrition and its policies, sowing the seeds for an integrated approach to mainstreaming nutrition in agriculture which included working on government policies, and strengthening multisectoral collaboration. In addition, nutrition education materials on improved feeding for children and improved food processing were developed, and hundreds of professionals working for the Government and NGOs at community level were trained to disseminate them. Moreover, gender-sensitive agriculture led the Home Economics Department, largely staffed by women, to incorporate gender-sensitive agriculture in the MAIL.

Inspired by the success of the projects implemented in Afghanistan, BMEL and FAO brought the lessons learnt from this experience to Sub-Saharan Africa, where FAO worked with the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU NEPAD) to mainstream nutrition into agricultural policies and investment plans. Between 2011 and 2013, in order to integrate nutrition into agriculture, 50 multisectoral country teams – led by the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)’s focal points – designed roadmaps which are now guiding country investments. Several BMEL-supported projects ensure follow-up initiatives at regional and country levels. For example, by mainstreaming nutrition and the right to food in Sierra Leone’s smallholder commercial agriculture; providing direct support to improve the resilience and nutrition of vulnerable people in Mali; or through the West Africa Hunger-Free Initiative, which cooperates with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to promote nutrition-sensitive agriculture and strengthen linkages between social protection and agriculture.

BMEL has also supported FAO in developing a range of normative materials such as the Key Recommendations for Improving Nutrition through Agriculture and Food Systems and Designing Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture Investments. Checklist and Guidance for Programme Formulation, which represent the foundation for a new e-learning course on Nutrition and Food Systems (released in September 2016).

A successful outcome was achieved with the Improving Complementary Feeding (IMCF) research and advocacy project, in whose framework a joint study was conducted by the Governments of Malawi and Cambodia, FAO and Justus Liebig University (JLU), Giessen, Germany. The study focused on assessing the impact of agricultural production in combination with nutrition education on children’s diet and nutritional status. Agricultural production was combined with nutrition education activities in the project countries of Cambodia and Malawi. The study revealed that where a nutrition education approach was applied, dietary diversification and consumption of animal foods, legumes and vegetables increased substantially.

In July 2017, BMEL and FAO will celebrate 15 years since the establishment of the Bilateral Trust Fund, and their long-lasting and ongoing efforts to eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.