Feedback from the Working Group on Nutrition-Sensitive Value Chains of the Rome-based Agencies
The second week of the consultation has brought insightful and interesting comments from the participants. The members of the RBA WG on VC and nutrition would like to, first of all, thank the contributors for their participation. A number of reflections revolved around the challenges and opportunities that arise when a nutrition-sensitive lens is applied to VC development, while also highlighting a number of areas of tension and convergence.
Contributors have noted the potential for a value-chain approach to focus on single commodities that may not contribute to improved nutrition and may exacerbate the downsides of monocropping and reinforce the lack of agro-biodiversity. The more inclusive approach described in the framework highlights the importance of bringing demand and nutrition considerations into the analysis, helping to identify interventions meant to address these nutrition problems. This aspect is perhaps more forcefully presented in two of the references underlying development of the framework (Gelli et al., and De la Peña, Garrett, and Gelli). Short value chains, attention to local markets, and the use of neglected and underutilised crops are key elements of the NSVC framework that could be emphasized more.
The comments also emphasize the need to place the framework, which focuses on VCs as part of an overall approach to development, more firmly in the context of food systems and the surrounding enabling environment. For example, while understanding the usefulness of a VC approach, Bioversity International promotes a “multi-chain” approach as part of a development strategy for smallholders. Diversity in production, marketing, and consumption can help improve the robustness of production systems, the provision of environmental services, and healthy diets. This can also help to support gender and inter-generational equity (www.bioversityinternational.org/initiatives/healthy-diets and www.bioversityinternational.org/news/detail/enhancing-benefits-for-smallholders-across-biodiverse-value-chains).
The framework should pay more attention, the contributors also seem to suggest, to issues of indigenous knowledge, women, environmental sustainability, and the multiplicity of actors involved in making value chains work for nutrition. This last observation raises important questions about VC governance: What are the interests among the different stakeholders along the VC? What are the activities that each one should do? How might this vary by political, economic, institutional, and social context? What incentives or disincentives do the different actors have? And what sorts of policies, programs, or mechanisms are needed to help ensure coherence and effective actions among them, including issues of information, capacity, and coordination, to ensure that the value chains that are developed function so as to benefit the nutrition of the most vulnerable? Responsibility and accountability seem to be key here. And while the framework mentions the need for monitoring and evaluation, one participant argues that, in fact, periodic assessments (and so, it seems, consistent monitoring over time) need to be carried out.
The role of the private sector seems to one particular area that should be explored in more depth. Some participants caution about the risks associated with PPP and emphasize the need to ensure actions go beyond an economic assessment of VCs and focus on the nutritional needs of consumers. The Private Sector Mechanism Position paper includes interesting strategies to be promoted to link agriculture, nutrition and health. The private sector is undoubtedly a key player in the development of VCs and, indeed, of entire food systems, beginning with smallholders for whom farming is a livelihood and a business. We would be interested in knowing more about experiences or approaches to share about how to make VC governance more effective that take these considerations into account.
The issue of food loss and food safety (especially for perishable crops) was mentioned by several contributors as a key dimension that needs to be considered at all stages of the VC. The RBA WG shares these views and would like to reinforce the importance of hygienic and safe handling along the VC to ensure that nutritious and safe food is made available for human consumption. As pointed by some of you, strict regulations on food safety may, however, exclude smallholder farmers from the VC, as the small producers may not have the resources or capacity needed to comply with such requirements. We would be grateful for any experiences that have successfully managed this trade-off between food safety and inclusion of smallholder producers.
Another member of the group brought an essential dimension to the debate: women's empowerment. As rightly mentioned, there are not only opportunities but also risks for household nutrition if women's resources and time constraints are not carefully considered. The discussion paper (paragraph 10) points towards the implications of women's empowerment as a key mediator of impact on nutrition, not only in terms of time and resource constraints, but also in terms of the impact on their own health and nutritional status. Clearly there is a need to unpack this dimension of the framework and further explore the linkages between women's empowerment, agricultural VCs, and nutrition.
Your contributions are of great value to us. We appreciate the effort of those of you who have read the discussion paper, and welcome your views on how we may render it more operational.
As noted, we are very eager to hear about examples on the ground, initiatives that have been successful in developing VC to enhance nutrition, as well as interventions that have failed and provide useful lessons for future action. Thanks again for your contributions and for allowing us to learn from your ideas and experiences.
Members of the Working Group on Nutrition-Sensitive Value Chains of the Rome-based Agencies