This blog is by Kathy Spahn, HKI’s President & CEO. Ms. Spahn was asked to speak about the rising profile of nutrition in the development agenda at the launch of IFPRI’s new flagship publication, the Global Food Policy Report.
On April 23rd I participated on a panel organized by IFPRI, the International Food Policy Research Institute, to launch their first Global Food Policy Report, a comprehensive report about major food policy developments and challenges of the past few years, and the outlook for 2012.
It’s an exciting time to be working in nutrition; at long last its star is on the rise. When I first joined Helen Keller International there weren’t many organizations like us or IFPRI that concentrated specifically on nutrition and its vital role in the health and development of nations. Over the past few years, beginning with the 2008 Lancet series, which highlighted the central links between nutrition and food security, to the more recent launch of the 1,000 Days campaign and the promotion of the Scale Up Nutrition (SUN) framework, it seems everyone is now thinking about nutrition. It’s even on the agenda of the World Economic Forum and the G8!
This is not a moment too late, as there are 171 million children in the world who are malnourished right now. Yet I fear that nutrition’s moment in the sun will be brief, and that we must all act now to seize the day if there is to be real, sustainable change.
One of the key focuses of the Global Food Policy Report is how to connect the dots between agriculture, nutrition, and health. The development community is beginning to realize that achieving food security is about more than just growing more food. It is also about growing more nutritious foods and making sure these foods are available and accessible to the families in need, particularly children during their first 1,000 days of life and their mothers.
Our Enhanced-Homestead Food Production (E-HFP) program is one example of a successful program that does just that. HKI provides seeds, seedlings, saplings and chicks, along with the necessary training to help small household farmers, who are usually women, create year-round gardens with nutritious fruits and vegetables and small farms for raising poultry and livestock. We also educate them about the foods they are growing, including cooking demonstrations and special tips on how to feed young or sick children.
For programs like this to thrive, different sectors must come together and share resources and knowledge. The time for silos is past – those working in nutrition, food security, agriculture, water and health must join together to conquer the cause of one third of child deaths worldwide – under-nutrition.
It is critical to document the success of these programs, so that there is a body of scientific proof that small scale agricultural programs improve nutrition, growth and health. In fact, HKI is working with IFPRI in a number of countries to help build this evidence base, work that will hopefully encourage donors to invest sufficient funds in this vital area.
I hope that IFPRI’s Global Food Policy Report will serve as a key reference for policymakers and stakeholders to keep food policy issues high on the global agenda and ensure that nutrition remains a primary focus – we have a responsibility to those 171 million children who are chronically malnourished, as well as to their mothers and their yet to be born baby brothers and sisters.
Others who spoke at the launch of The Global Food Policy Report included Fawzi Al-Sultan, Chair of IFPRI’s Board of Trustees; Shenggen Fan, IFPRI Director General; and Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, Minister of Food and Disaster Management, Bangladesh.