Fostering nutrition mainstreaming through Rome-based Agency collaboration for Africa

Accelerating the progress of nutrition-sensitive investments at country level

By Marian Amaka Odenigbo and Roberta Carino 

On occasion of the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the Rome-based Agencies (RBAs - FAO, IFAD and WFP) organized a side event on Fostering Nutrition Mainstreaming through RBA Collaboration for Africa – Accelerating the progress of nutrition-sensitive investments at country level which was held on 13 October 2017 at FAO HQ.

The main aim of this side event was to put on the spotlight the collaborative efforts on improving nutrition among RBAs and the nutrition-sensitive initiatives of partners towards fostering nutrition mainstreaming in Africa.

The event was divided into two complementary panel sessions i) Agriculture for Nutrition and ii) Broadening Partnerships for Nutrition Mainstreaming. The first panel session highlighted collaborative efforts at country level on nutrition mainstreaming by relevant partners such as Hivos, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and NEPAD. The second session presented the work of RBAs technical working groups - Sustainable value chains for nutrition, food loss and waste, Home grown school feeding, and the group on accelerating Nutrition Mainstreaming – in Africa.

Mr Sana F. K. Jatta, IFAD's East and Southern Africa Regional Director, opened the side event with an inspiring speech on the importance of investing in nutrition, particularly in the African region, through concerted actions. He underlined how all forms of malnutrition clearly have negative economic consequences on public health expenditures causing high losses on a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Sana F.K. Jatta (IFAD) ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
“Investing in nutrition cannot be business as usual”, Mr Jatta said. He added that there is an urgent need of establishing a holistic multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach in integrating nutrition into agriculture, social protection and other broad rural poverty reduction strategies to achieve better results on nutrition.

According to the ESA’s Regional Director, RBA collaboration is crucial for mainstreaming nutrition at project and country level, especially if we want to tackle the different causes of malnutrition and ensure sustainable lives for all.

A short documentary on modern fish processing in Zambia illustrated an innovative entrepreneurship to produce more food products from fish, thus increasing utilization, efficiency, contribution to nutrition and reduction in waste and losses. The protagonist of the short documentary is Ms Kasazi Nyendwa, a young woman beneficiary of the IFAD-funded Smallholder Agribusiness Promotion Programme (SAPP) and a fish farmer producing a variety of innovative and nutritious fish products to the Zambians communities. 

Richard Abila (IFAD) ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
In appreciation of this video, the IFAD Senior Technical Specialist on Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mr Richard Abila, highlighted the role of fish as a critical vehicle for food security and nutrition, providing food and income for households. He also mentioned that one of the challenges that RBAs need to collectively address is to identify means of implementing technology at lower level for easy uptake by the rural people and for contributions to their food security and nutrition status.

About "40% of the fish is thrown away. We need to develop cost-effective technologies for reducing these losses”, said Mr Abila in his concluding statement.
William Chilufya (Hivos) ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
Advocating for diversity in the agriculture sector is one of the solutions to ensure nutritious and safe food and combat overall malnutrition said Mr William Chilufya, Regional Advocacy Officer at Hivos. “We need to diversify our eating habits”, he echoed after sharing Hivos’ positive experiences in fostering nutrition in Africa by promoting diversity in production and consumption through so-called food change labs.

He also emphasised the need of bringing together stakeholders to discuss about problems around food and diets diversification and find concrete solutions to the problem of malnutrition.

Similarly, Mr Hiroshi Hiraoka, Senior Advisor for the Japan International Cooperation Agency 
Hiroshi Hiraoka (JICA) ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
Hamady Diop (NEPAD) ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
Louise McDonald (IFAD) ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
(JICA), shared his valuable experiences in the context of the recently launched Initiative for Food and Nutrition Security for Africa (IFNA) where the partnership with RBAs clearly represents a fundamental step and concrete action to accelerate the efforts to alleviate hunger and malnutrition and scale up nutrition interventions in Africa.

He then concluded by assuring that, “JICA will continue the proactive engagement on food and nutrition activities” particularly in ten target countries and it would work with other organisations toward solving the world's food and nutrition problems.

“Nutrition is a social investment,” echoed Mr Hamady Diop, Head of the Programme Natural Resources Governance, Food Security and Nutrition at NEPAD. He further highlighted how several regions in Africa have already embarked on a process to mainstream nutrition into the Regional Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development (CAADP) Compacts and respective investment plans in the context of the Programme. Interestingly, Mr Diop outlined how access to food is one of the key priorities for the RBAs.

Ms Louise McDonald, IFAD Programme Officer, elaborated on the necessity of working together with the government as the only way to tackle the multiple burden of malnutrition in Africa. After briefly highlighting few successful ongoing RBA collaborations in African countries (e.g. Kenya, Mozambique and Madagascar), she then concluded by encouraging partnerships on taking into consideration their respective strengths in fostering the nutrition agenda. 
Abla Benhammouche (IFAD) ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca

IFAD’s Zambia Country Director, Ms Abla Benhammouche, who moderated the first Panel Discussion, also acknowledged RBA collaboration among other institutional collaboration platforms as a good approach to tackle malnutrition in all its forms. She closed the panel discussion by saying “if nutrition is already mainstreamed, there is always the need of doing more collectively”.

The event proceeded to a second Panel Session on Broadening Partnerships for Nutrition Mainstreaming, moderated by Ms Marian Amaka Odenigbo, IFAD Senior Technical Specialist in Nutrition. This session focused on the perspectives to strengthen RBA collaboration in the nutrition agenda and the global initiatives. 
Maya Takagi (FAO); Mutinta Hambayi (WFP) ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
The first panelist was Ms Maya Takagi, FAO Deputy Strategic Programme Leader for Reducing Rural Poverty (SP3), who talked about the linkage between SDG 1 and SDG 2. She strongly stated that investing in nutrition is key to poverty reduction, as well as an investment that benefits the poorest, the communities and the families. According to Ms Takagi, there are two pathways through which access to a more diversified food and sustainable nutrition can be fully achieved with positive outcomes on poverty reduction at the same time: i) through nutrition-sensitive agriculture, and ii) by integrating nutrition into social protection programmes.

As a follow up on the global initiative, Ms Mutinta Hambayi
, Chief of Nutrition Sensitive Unit at WFP HQ, underscored the importance of adopting a multi sectoral approach to tackle malnutrition in all its forms. Ms Hambayi described malnutrition as a multidimensional phenomenon driven by various determinants, requiring a strategic collaboration that effectively takes into account other sectors i.e. safe water, sanitation, social protection, health, climate and environment. Furthermore, she articulated what nutrition sensitive programming is and made a call for action in different sectors, among RBAs in order to improve nutrition outcomes and nutrition objectives.

To showcase the work of the RBAs, the representatives of the RBA working groups on Nutrition Sensitive Value Chains (NSVC); Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) and Nutrition Mainstreaming gave sound bites on their objectives and the basis for enhanced collaboration in view of nutrition mainstreaming. 

David Ryckembusch (WFP); Marian Amaka Odenigbo (IFAD);
Florence Tartanac (FAO) ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
According to FAO Senior Officer Ms Florence Tartanac, project interventions require going beyond a traditional value chain approach, commodity and market focused to investments with a nutrition lens. What is strongly required is to broaden the concept of value chain from a purely economic focus to one that encompasses gender, nutrition, health and environmental dimensions and to identify entry points along the entire value chain for enhancing nutrition at all levels.

Similarly, Mr David Ryckembusch, WFP Senior Programme Adviser, emphasized the multisectoral approach of the Home Grown School Feeding programme and its multiple benefits from improving nutritional status, health and cognitive development of children, to facilitating access to school and increasing attendance rates. “School meals are a good nutrition-sensitive investment that not only positively benefits children, but the entire community overall”, he said enthusiastically.

Militezegga A. Mustafa (FAO); Cheikh Sourang (IFAD)
©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
Finally, Ms Militezegga A. Mustafa, FAO Nutrition Policy Consultant talked about the Nutrition Mainstreaming group. Ms Mustafa emphasised that mainstreaming nutrition requires continuous financial and political commitment, capacity building and coordination.

In the event’s closing remarks, Mr Cheikh Sourang, Senior RBA Advisor, reminded the audience that RBAs need to work together in a systemic and proactive way in order to fully integrate nutrition into agriculture projects. He pointed out that there is still so much to do in terms of development of capacity, scaling-up and strengthening RBA collaboration for accelerating the progress of nutrition-sensitive interventions across Africa.

The scale of malnutrition and its impact on health and economic growth are serious global concerns. The three key words as the way forward of fostering nutrition mainstreaming through RBAs collaboration together with relevant partners and the government are: complementarity, alignment, coordination.

See also: Nutrition Ambition: It takes coordination, alignment and collaboration