It was amazing, a striking convergence of a wide range of dedicated professionals – from plant scientists to policymakers. Such a diverse gathering underpinned the importance of improving the nutrition of the world’s poor.
But I gathered from the International Food Policy Research Institute’s conference in New
Delhi that it is a complex problem with no simple solutions. It is always good to meet and share ideas, and even prescribe some solutions in a building as luxurious and imposing as the Taj Palace Hotel but what next?
It will need the bringing together of experts in agriculture, nutrition, health and policy to understand their complementary roles. They have largely worked in isolation, like antagonists.
“People do not live in isolation. Let us all become professional silo breakers,” Francesco Branco, Director, Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, World Health Organization aptly captured it.
Agriculture alone cannot achieve better quality food for the poor. And, therefore, health must be considered as an element in agriculture.
“Combating under-nutrition will require contributions from the fields of agriculture, health, water and sanitation, education, and social protection,” said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President, Global Development Program. What a wide range of people to be involved!
Leveraging agriculture to improve health and nutrition will be challenge. Bringing the three together to New Delhi revealed that a lot of work needs to be done in and enhancing coordination as well as improving joint planning, management and evaluating programmes.
For Africa the task is even much bigger. I couldn’t agree more with Boitshepo Giyose, Advisor on Food and Security, New Partnership for Africa Development when she said, “Nutrition is non-sectoral. It is a new journey and the work has only begun. We should strive to have Africa free of hunger.”
Governments are starting to come to grips with the reality but they do not know what to do, according to John McDermott, deputy director general for research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). A government is the custodian of a people’s security including their food security.
In New Delhi they mixed and shared admirably but the hard task lies ahead. Over to you ladies and gentlemen. I am wishing you all the best.
Ochieng’ Ogodo, Sub-Saharan Africa News Editor, SciDev.Net