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Where to focus to design food security enhancement program

by Yadav Sharma Bajagai

Today, developing countries are facing severe problem of household food and nutrition insecurity caused by multifaceted reasons ranging from low agricultural productivity, limited livelihood opportunities, inefficient food distribution system, weak market linkage, poor infrastructure and lack of awareness on healthy food and care habit. Demographic and Health Survey reports from these countries have shown that proportions of underweight children, prevalence of stunting among children and micro-nutrient deficiency in children, pregnant and nursing mothers are high and widespread. The situation is more severe in the countries affected by conflict and the countries in the transition.

Fortunately, many international development partners and the state governments are working together to fight against this problem and working through several global and national initiatives to attain objectives of Millennium Development Goal 1 by 2015. These initiatives address the growing food and nutrition insecurity emerged as a consequence of soaring food prices and impacts of global climate change among others.

In sustainably alleviating the food security and nutrition situations, it is important to address the issues associated with food availability at local level, access to adequate and safe food and its proper utilization.  The goal of sustainably enhancing food and nutrition security of the targeted communities can only be achieved by strengthening the entire agricultural value chain viz. improving the quality of seeds and animal breed, connecting farmers to local markets and encouraging crop diversity. Commercialization, diversification and quality enhancement of agriculture sector is very crucial in this context. Smart and strategic approach should be implemented to increase agricultural productivity, to decrease poverty through increased income base, to drive economic growth and to reduce under-nutrition among our children and our mothers. Moreover, the programs should be specific to particular geographical terrain, demography, climate, and other problems and opportunities of the countries and the region to be implemented. Therefore, sometimes "one size fit all" program formulated by so called expert without considering ground reality may not be suitable and sustainable in the local context of particular countries/region.

Similarly, generating awareness among vulnerable groups about appropriate food, health and care practices are equally important so that most vulnerable group of people, particularly pregnant and nursing mothers and children under 2 years of age get the appropriate nutrition they need to thrive. It is very essential to always focus the program to small and marginal farmers, poor and disadvantaged communities.

It is desirable to focus simultaneously on the short-term needs and problems to address the emergencies and longer-term solutions and strategies to get rid of the problem sustainably. Food-based nutritional approach is the most sustainable way to fight against the problem of under-nutrition we are facing today. So, in this context our policies and program should be strategic towards nutrition sensitive and sustainable agricultural development. There should be proper integration of agriculture and nutrition intervention which should also be reflected in government plan and policies.

Food security enhancement is so popular development agenda that most of the time there are multiple players on the same ground with same objectives. There is very urgent need for concerted and coordinated efforts within and across all organizations of these multiple players (government and non-government) to bring synergy and to achieve desired impacts on the ground. Development partners who are working for the same cause need a common vision with a coordinated approach.

Hence, we can fight against hunger together by making this a common cause of our time, a cause to feed our children, a cause to fight against one of the most significant development challenges; by specifically designing the program in the most effective way possible and implementing in the area and communities where it is most needed. 

This could be difficult but not impossible.