FSN Forum

DISCUSSION No. 138 • FSN Forum digest No. 1295

How can value chains be shaped to improve nutrition?

until17 April 2017

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Dear Members,

We are happy to share with you the first digest of the online consultation How can value chains be shaped to improve nutrition?.

Participants have started sharing their views on the main challenges and opportunities related to the development of development of nutrition-sensitive value chains (NSVC).

Please find below the summaries of their first comments together with the feedback from the Working Group on Nutrition-Sensitive Value Chains of the Rome-based Agencies (RBAs), the conveners of this exchange.

The output of this consultation will be an important input for the RBAs to refine their approach to nutrition-sensitive value chain development, and to move from Principles to Action, bringing this approach to ongoing operations in the field.

To make the most out of this consultation, we invite you to read the discussion paper as a background and to share concrete examples of cases in which NSVC approaches have been implemented successfully or have faced considerable challenges.

All comments received so far, the introduction to the topic and the background paper are available on the FSN Forum in English, French and Spanish.

To take part, please send your comments to FSN-moderator@fao.org or post them online upon registration to the FSN Forum.

We look forward to keep receiving your comments.

Your FSN Forum team


Feedback from the Working Group on Nutrition-Sensitive Value Chains of the Rome-based Agencies

The members of RBAs would like to thank all the contributors who provided their comments so far. Some of them provoke reflections on challenges and opportunities for value chains in contributing to improvement of nutrition. As stated in the topic note and by some of you, value chains must be considered, analyzed and facilitated as one of the core components of a food system.

A couple of you stated a trade-off of a nutrition-sensitive value chain. Value chains should be not only nutrition sensitive, but also economically viable, especially for producers/farmers. We would appreciate it if you could share with us any supportive policies, institutions, and programmes that are coherent and successfully manage this trade-off.

Some of you emphasized that value chains are market-driven and sustainable interventions require private-public partnerships in improving nutrition, be it a supportive tax policy to back a viable business case. One member mentioned that staple crops are part of cost-effective value chains as he believes nutrition-sensitive value chains must be effective and cost-efficient. It would be useful to learn more about these cost-effective value chains.

We cannot agree more with you regarding many challenges which exist for nutrition-sensitive value chains: for example, perishability and seasonality of some nutritious food. We are glad to see that a solution was suggested to this challenge. A short value chain / local food is very important to meet nutritional needs of local population. Some of you concurred with some recommendations of the framework: multi-sectoral approach is required by going beyond the traditional value approach (commodity and market focused) and traditional approach to nutrition programming (public sector driven). The wholeness was another main point raised: shifting from a commodity focus that addresses one value chain at a time to an approach which addresses various value chains with the aim of improving diets in a holistic way.

All in all, the consultation started-off well. We look forward to hearing from many more of you and exploring further the role of value chains for nutrition.

We strongly encourage you to use this opportunity to share your experience and lessons learnt. Your contribution is very important to us.

Members of the Working Group on Nutrition-Sensitive Value Chains of the Rome-based Agencies


iconKuruppacharil V. Peter, World Noni Research Foundation, India

Kuruppacharil discusses various stages of the value chain and argues that these are interdependent. He stresses that the quality of raw products and food safety are crucial for the quality of the end products.

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iconErick Boy-Gallego, HarvestPlus / IFPRI, United States of America

Erick underlines that value chains are demand- and profit-driven. Where staple crops are part of cost-effective value chains, the value chains of other foodstuffs that ensure diversified diets are much more susceptible to losses caused by physiological decay, seasonality and labour-intensive production. This is due to undertakings such as homestead production not typically benefitting from economies of scale or links to the market.

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iconBruno Kistner, Asian Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition, Singapore

Bruno argues that food consumed by the poorest consumers should be mandated with a balanced nutrient portfolio including B-vitamins. Regarding the adoption of a long-term strategy, one needs to look at how food systems can provide diversity to low-income populations. Sustainable interventions require public-private partnerships; a supportive tax policy could for instance be implemented to promote nutrition.

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iconLal Manavado, University of Oslo, Norway

Lal looks at the issue through a systemic lens, arguing that the central problem lies with the fact that value chains per se are merely concerned with the service value that each component adds to the product. Being only concerned with commercial gain, taken on their own the single steps within the chain have no bearing on nutrition. Hence, value chains alone will not yield nutritious food if they are not part of food systems aimed at making diverse and wholesome food available to the population at an affordable price. To facilitate the uptake of such food systems a shift in policies needs to happen, moving away from industrialisation and free trade as the centrepieces of policy formulation focusing instead on the intrinsic nutritional value and sustainability of products.

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iconHamadoun A. Haidara, Association d’Appui au Développement Communautaire du Mali, Mali

Hamadoun argues that it is important to valorise local foods, because these foods are those that are most accessible to people in need.

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iconEileen Omosa, We Grow Ideas, Canada

Eileen’s comment focuses on awareness creation among the stakeholders in the different stages of the value chain. Regarding the processing of food, she for instance argues that the benefits of processing need to be underlined, especially with regard to giving harvest a longer shelf life. Other questions she raises relate for example to the consequences of migration for nutrition: when men migrate to urban areas, do they have the necessary skills to make sure that they have a balanced diet?

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iconMebit Kebede, Jhpiego Ethiopia, Ethiopia

Mebit stresses that in order to be able to improve nutrition, coordination is needed among the different value chain actors. He discusses several opportunities related to developing nutrition-sensitive value chains, such as the potential of value chain approaches for understanding why certain nutritious foods are less affordable than others, and how these foods can be made affordable vulnerable people. Mebit also lists several challenges, and points out that the focus has primarily been on single food commodities, neglecting dietary diversity.

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iconRose Hogan, Trocaire, Ireland

Rose argues that the cultivation of crops that are not consumed by the grower himself should be avoided. In addition, the practice of value chain entrepreneurs restricting farmers to monocropping should be countered.

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iconMorgane Danielou, Private Sector Mechanism, France

Morgane has posted a contribution from the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM). The PSM shares a number of principles it supports for promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture, including 1) building enabling policy environments that secure access to healthy food through sustainable production; 2) supporting farmers with extension and access to inputs; 3) integrating smallholders in value chains; 4) empowering women; 5) supporting strategies on diversification, fortification and supplementation; 6) educating and informing consumers; 7) reducing risk for agricultural investment and production, and 8) linking agriculture, nutrition and health communities.

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iconLucy Quainoo, MEL Consulting Ltd, Ghana

Lucy focuses on the challenges and opportunities that arise when developing nutrition-sensitive value chains. She for example mentions that establishing value chain actor cooperatives is crucial for capacity building. Regarding the challenges, she notes that there may be resistance to change due to cultural differences and negative perceptions of innovation.

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iconStephen Machado, Oregon State University, United States of America

Stephen shares several aspects that, according to him, should be taken into account when thinking about how value chains can be made more nutrition-sensitive. He points out that first of all, we need to make sure that farmers can produce crops, which entails building soil health for sustainable crop production. Stephen also underlines the importance of promoting indigenous crops, which are often nutrient-dense and could generate income for smallholders if a niche market for these food stuffs could be created in other parts of the world.

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iconFranck Hubert Ateba, Afrique Avenir, Cameroon

Franck discusses challenges related to nutrition-sensitive value chain development. He distinguishes between quantitative challenges, including the availability, accessibility and competitiveness of food products, and qualitative challenges, such as supplying essential nutrients and healthy food products, but also taking into account the environment. Franck also mentions examples of nutrition-sensitive value chain development in Cameroon, where the government is promoting large-scale production of starch made of cassava derivatives. He points out several general challenges regarding value chain development in his country, but argues simultaneously that there is a lot of potential for, among others, promoting the use of underused forest products.

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