Malnutrition is everyone’s problem argues latest IDS bulletin

Published on 5 February 2018

As one in three people are affected, and virtually every country on this planet is facing a serious public health challenge due to malnutrition, the latest IDS Bulletin calls for actors from across sectors to work together to tackle the global epidemic.

The causes for malnutrition are multiple, ranging from food insecurity to inadequate care practices; health services; or unhealthy environments. The editors of ‘Value Chains for Nutrition in South Asia: Who Delivers, How, and to Whom?’, argue that the diversity and breadth of the reasons for malnutrition, demonstrates the need for multisector action.

Recent attempts have been made to link the agriculture and nutrition realms to improve the food side of this challenge. In South Asia in particular, agriculture has a crucial role in the livelihoods and income of most of the poor and rural populations. However, it still accounts for 40 per cent of the world’s undernourished populations.

The editors of the bulletin, Mar Maestre and Nigel Poole recognise the important role that the private sector plays in improving nutrition. They also show that there is a clear need for a stronger government role in shaping different agri-food value chain pathways so that they can better deliver nutritious foods to vulnerable people.

Based on research evidence from Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA), this bulletin presents the findings from four years of work around multiple agri-food value chain pathways in different countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan).

The bulletin asks two questions:

  1. What are the existing (or potential) agri-food value chain pathways to deliver nutritious foods from agriculture to nutritionally vulnerable consumers? Who are the key actors engaged in these?
  2. What public and private actions are needed to strengthen the impacts of these agri-food value chains on nutrition in South Asia?

The collection of articles examines the role of the private and public sector, as well as civil society, in pathways to deliver nutritious food including mandatory fortification, public distribution, social enterprises, and private business models, amongst others, to assess different scenarios for better sustained delivery of nutrient-rich foods.

It is the first attempt at nutrition-oriented whole chain research in South Asia. It provides evidence on what is working and what is not; policy recommendations for the role and use of market-based interventions for nutrition-related challenges; and suggests a new agenda for research.

There is not one solution, but there is space for policymakers and practitioners to set nutrition as a priority and use this framework and these recommendations as a starting point. By looking at the limits of what business can and cannot achieve in a given market environment, this IDS Bulletin provides insights to policymakers about how to create an appropriate institutional environment that shapes how these value chains operate for the benefit of vulnerable communities.

The bulletin will be launched at the livestreamed webinar on Wednesday 7 February, 13.00-14.30. Register to join online or in person.

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