UN Rome-based Agencies (RBA) Collaboration on Sustainable Food Value Chains for Nutrition

By Wanessa Marques
©FAO/Andrea Polo Galante

To navigate the complexity of food systems and identify entry points for nutrition-sensitive policy and investments, a Nutrition-Sensitive Value Chains (NSVC) approach has emerged to improve food security and nutrition outcomes in development projects. The NSCV approach leverages opportunities to enhance nutrition value as well, increasing supply and demand for safe and diverse food, and minimizing nutrition losses.

In this context, the Rome-based Agencies (RBAs) — FAO, IFAD and WFP, along with Bioversity International and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) — have identified nutrition-sensitive value chains as a crucial area for collaboration, and formed a Working Group on Sustainable Food Value Chains for Nutrition in 2015. The RBA Working Group undertakes joint actions on NSVCs, focusing on capacity development at global and country level.

The RBAs are currently developing an e-learning course to equip project designers and managers, and policy makers with concepts, principles and tools they need to leverage value chain approaches to improve nutrition. This e-learning module is based on the forthcoming IFAD guide on NSVC, the FAO's Sustainable Food Value Chain Framework and on practical experience of both agencies.

To validate the approach of the e-learning course a workshop was organized by FAO, IFAD and WFP at FAO HQ on 15 November 2017. This workshop was the first step in a consultative design process, intended to inform the development of the e-learning course aimed at strengthening the capacity of programme managers and designers, and policy makers to use VC approaches to improve nutrition.

The workshop gathered around 30 participants from organizations that are committed to, and engaged in, NSVC projects and research, such as the University of Wageningen, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS - University of Sussex), The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), IFPRI and many colleagues working in the RBAs. The participants provided important feedback and shared case studies of NSVC projects which are valuable to the development of the e-learning course.

Mr Günter Hemrich, Deputy Director, FAO Nutrition and Food Systems division, opened the workshop highlighting that non-healthy diets are one of the perks for many diseases we are facing in the current days, and stressed that "diet is at the center of the nutrition discussion and value chain is critical to improve diets". After his remarks, Florence Tartanac, FAO Senior Officer, and David Ryckembusch, WFP Senior Programme Adviser presented an overview of the ongoing RBA collaboration around nutrition-sensitive value chains.

Isabel De La Peña, IFAD Nutrition and Value Chain consultant, presented the Framework on Nutrition-Sensitive Value Chain jointly developed by the RBAs. Drawing on existing value chain approach, including those for NSVC, and building on each RBA work this analytical framework for project design was adopted by the RBAs as a common approach to guide the efforts in mainstreaming nutrition into VC. IFAD has been piloting an operational guidance for design of nutrition-sensitive value chain in two countries, Indonesia and Nigeria, since 2015 and the outcomes of this project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), will be presented in the IFAD guide to NSVC to be published in early 2018.

©IFAD/Wanessa Marques

Case studies were also showcased during the workshop. Matthias Jäger, CIAT Senior Expert Markets & Value Chains, and Christine Chege, Agricultural Economist and Nutritionist, presented the CIAT project Making value chains work for nutrition in East Africa, which applies a multidisciplinary approach to make value chain projects nutrition-sensitive. Cristina Scarpocchi, FAO Project Coordinator, presented a case on the Enable women to benefit more equally from agri-food value chains project, which includes a gender and nutrition dimension in ongoing value chain projects.

©IFAD/Wanessa Marques
After the presentations, Andrea Polo Galante, FAO Senior Nutrition consultant, and Cristina Petracchi, FAO e-learning team leader, led the participants through a group exercise. Participants were divided in two groups according to the proposed target audience: i) policy makers, and ii) project designers and managers. The groups debated the specific job tasks and activities of the target audience in relation to NSVCs and the specific knowledge, skills and competences that have to be considered in the e-learning course to respond to the target audience learning needs. 

The groups had fruitful discussions and the outcomes will be included in the development of the e-learning course. The e-learning lessons will be learner-centred, engaging and rich in interactive elements, examples and case-based scenarios. The course will be launched in March 2018 and it will be accessible on-line, free of charge through FAO's e-learning centre. The e-learning course complements the efforts on capacity development in nutrition-sensitive agriculture that are on-going in IFAD, and will benefit staff and project management unit teams.

©FAO/Sara Ferrante