Good afternoon. I would like to thank the organizers for the invitation to review this paper, and to thank the authors for all of the efforts to put this important paper together. Before I start my comments, I thought it would be useful that I be forthright about the perspective from which I reviewed this paper. I am a public health nutrition practitioner, and very pragmatic. I am not tied to any single intervention but try to deploy a package of evidence-based solutions. Helen Keller International works through partners, so a point of view of the needs of partners. Strongly influenced by experience in sub-Saharan Africa.
The authors do acknowledge the constraints in capacity. Globally it has been recognized since at least 1978 that low capacity in nutrition was a barrier to scaling-up. The Scaling Up Nutrition is the latest to recognize this constraint. I think that there has to be a more specific research agenda to assess what capacity-building policies and methods are most effective, and can be scaled-up – and how investments in capacity-building translate into improved nutrition outcomes. There is a perception that “capacity building “ is a black hole, and this is the sort of evidence that will leverage investment in capacity building.
I was pleased to see discussion of industrial (or in the authors’ words “commercial”) food fortification. Even though industrial food fortification is positioned within CAADP – my impression is that the agricultural sector does not embrace food fortification as an essential component of agriculture and food policy. There has been a lot of progress in industrial food fortification in recent years, but there are important areas of research to continue to improve programs, including on the coverage by geographic and socio-economic groups, the adequacy of nutrients, the value-added of other food vehicles and how to best ensure compliance by importers.
The organizers requested that we give some thought to relative roles of different agencies. In our experience partnering with research institutions like IFPRI and UC Davis has been a powerful way to get implementers to frame issues in research terms and get researchers to apply research in a program implementation environment. I think more purposeful partnering of implementers and researchers should be encouraged. In general there is a wealth of knowledge of how to serve small-holder women farmers in the non-governmental sector, and we should leverage this to build public sector capacity. I think we are under-utilizing private sector experience and capacity – for example in research and development of new measurement technologies and methods, methods for capacity building and strategies for technology diffusion.
Most challenging in the instructions from the organizers, for me, was a request to suggest some “next steps”. My first next step is a bit contradictory to my opening statement – there is a lot we do not know about what works to make agriculture have better impacts on nutrition, but there are some things we do know, and are discussed in this paper, and we should effectively deploy these interventions. I was at a review workshop of agricultural investments of a major donor in Africa in December – and I was struck that there was virtually no investment in industrial fortification or biofortification, and very little in homestead food production – interventions for which there is strong to medium evidence. As you will have gathered, I think one of the quickest wins is to really build a strong focus on women-centered agriculture. I am a staunch believer in improving the evidence base and using that evidence base to drive policies and programs. And finally, none of this can happen if we do not invest in the capacity to deliver – and I will repeat my call to invest in this neglected area. I would again like to thank the organizers and the authors and I look forward to our discussions.
Presentation by Shawn Baker at the Food Security Futures I Conference
Review: Priorities for Public Sector Research on Food Security and NutritionFood Security FuturesResearch Priorities for the 21st CenturyApril 11-12, 2013Dublin, IrelandReviewer:Shawn K. BakerVice-President, Regional Director for AfricaHelen Keller International
Perspective Pragmatic practitioner Deploying multiple evidence- based solutions to undernutrition Programs implemented through partnerships Strongly focused on sub-Saharan Africa
Context:•Investments inagriculture and foodsecurity dwarf those indirect nutrition –incrementalimprovements meaningful•CAADP emphasizesnutrition – yet plans weak•More countries joiningScaling-Up Nutrition•Hunger for guidance onnutrition-sensitiveagriculture
Measurement Research:•HIV: “Know yourepidemic, know your response”•Measuring nutrition iscumbersome:- Micronutrient status- Anthropometrics- Food consumption- Nutrient content- Agricultural statistics•Better data will drive betterprograms and betteraccountability
Evaluation Research:•Nutrition usuallyafterthought in design ofagriculture programs•Evaluation design hasnot considered impactpathways to delivernutrition results•Design and implementevaluations appropriateto agricultureinterventions
Women-CenteredAgriculture:•In Africa, womenaccount for 70% of laborfor agricultural and 80%for food processing•Public sector agriculturesystems seldom havemandate or capacity toserve small-holderwomen farmers
Capacity Building: TheOrphan Intervention•SUN: “Human andinstitutional capacity innutrition is very weak inmany countries, thuslimiting the pace of scalingup”•Research on capacity-building policies andmethods
Industrial FoodFortification•An essential component ofagricultural and food policy•Research: - Coverage by geographic and socio-economic groups - Adequacy of nutrients - Value-added of other food vehicles - Compliance by importers
Some Thoughts on Roles:•More purposeful partnering ofresearchers and program implementers•Leverage civil society organizationknowledge of women-centeredprogramming to re-align public sector•Better harness private sectorexperience and expertise: •Measurement technologies and methods •Capacity-building methods •Technology diffusion
Next Steps:•Effectively deploy what wedo know works•Strong focus on women-centered agriculture•Invest in bettermeasurement methods,better evaluations, betterdata collection and use•Invest in capacity to deliver