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Integrating new players

Shenggen Fan | 21 January 2013

Fan Shenggen writes about advancing global food and nutrition security through an integrated approach with new players.

Many strides have been made in advancing global food and nutrition security in recent decades. Going forward, however, there is still much progress to be achieved as nearly 870 million individuals on the planet are undernourished and more than 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. Implementing new and integrative approaches to combating food and nutrition insecurity and interrelated development issues, as well the inclusion of many emerging actors will be critical. 

With complexly intertwined factors increasingly influencing food security, policy planning and implementation cannot be carried out in an isolated manner anymore. In particular, the silo approach to sustainable development—which is once again at the centre of global policy discourses—is no longer acceptable. 

A nexus approach to integrating food and nutrition security into sustainable development is needed. As an example, it is now clear that food security policies are inextricably linked to water, land and energy policies, due to growing natural resource scarcity and stresses. Policymakers across these sectors must ensure that policies are designed with a food and nutrition security lens and pay attention to intersectoral linkages. Such an approach can help to minimize the trade-offs between these areas due to isolated policy planning and help to utilize sectoral synergies which promote successful innovations in the aggregate.

To support this, new measures are needed to monitor and evaluate impacts across sectors. These new metrics are necessary to assess the food security implications of natural resource policies, and vice versa. Such mechanisms will be crucial in building up evidence for sound policy making. 

Related to this nexus approach is the need for a sound cost-benefit analysis of natural resource use in agricultural production. In many cases, the full costs and benefits of natural resource use in food production have not been taken into consideration by stakeholders in their decision-making. As a result, the prices of food and natural resources have not fully reflected social and environmental costs, such as impacts on climate change and health. By excluding the full costs of natural resource use from food production, over-use and exploitation of these resources occur over time.

What is required is a strong social protection system to protect poor people in the short run if food and natural resources become more expensive for them due to a proper cost-benefit assessment. Together with improved knowledge, social protection will provide an incentive for agricultural producers to adopt resource-saving technologies and practices and for consumers to change their dietary behaviour to reduce waste and losses along food value chains.  

The role of many new players in the global arena has also become increasingly important in advancing food and nutrition security.

Many emerging economies are now playing an expanding role in boosting food security globally. Countries like Brazil, China and India have become prominent global players in terms of population, food production and economic development. At the same time, they have also become important to the food security of other emerging and developing nations through factors like international trade and foreign aid—for example, 10 non-OECD countries provide more than $100 million of development aid each year, as of 2008.

The private sector has also become increasingly involved in combating global hunger for several reasons. New business models are emerging which promote pro-poor growth by encompassing smallholders and others in rural areas. The private sector has also become a key player in making nutritious foods available to consumers in developing countries through nutritionally-fortified and affordable foods, as well as expanded retail networks. For example, Hindustan Unilever in India launched Kissan Amaze—a food product which is fortified specifically to improve cognitive development in children.

A number of public-private partnerships seek to improve food and nutrition security. PepsiCo Foundation has invested in strengthening the distribution capabilities of the World Food Programme and in Save the Children’s programs for achieving better nutrition and health outcomes.   

Philanthropic organizations are taking up a serious role in the food security sphere. The Gates Foundation funds programs that help small farmers, especially women farmers, escape from the cycle of hunger and poverty. This is in large part due to their will to take risks to reach the poor and support social entrepreneurship in innovative ways. 

Photo credit main picture: World Bank Photo Collection

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About the author

Shenggen Fan

Shenggen Fan is the director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

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