Moving past food aid: the challenge of improving nutrition

From Global development | The Guardian Mon Dec 3 2012, 11:31:45

Food security programmes are shifting their focus from quantity to quality, but what is the best approach?

Food security and malnutrition remain some global development's biggest challenges. Latest UN figures show that 870 million people were chronically undernourished between 2010-12; the vast majority of whom, 850 million, live in developing countries. Yet despite this the UN's Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement said in it's report (pdf) that 2012 was the year "when chronic under-nutrition moved from the side-lines to the centre". It argues that the international community has now realised the need to shift focus from simply food quantity, to one of food quality. In a word: nutrition.

There are, however, differing views as to how best to increase nutrition levels. Monique Mikhail, policy adviser on sustainable agriculture at Oxfam, welcomes initiatives such as SUN, which has 28 developing country government members. But she and many others in the NGO community fear that international efforts to target government agricultural policies often result in more cereals to be sold as export, rather than the locally-produced diverse foods needed to improve nutrition. "A lot of the discourse out there is pushing this large-scale, mono-culture model, without realising the impacts of that on communities", says Mikhail. "Land is being taken away from small-scale producers."

The World Bank identifies five 'pathways' (pdf) that link food production to nutrition: subsistence-oriented production, income-oriented production for sale in markets, increased agricultural production, empowerment of women to control ...

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