FSN Forum

DISCUSSION No. 138 • FSN Forum digest No. 1297

How can value chains be shaped to improve nutrition?

until 19 April 2017

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Dear Members,

Please find below the summaries of the latest contributions received to the ongoing consultation How can value chains be shaped to improve nutrition? and feedback from the Working Group on Nutrition-Sensitive Value Chains of the Rome-based Agencies (RBAs), which is facilitating this exchange.

In its message, the RBA Working Group acknowledges the richness of the contributions received, which address a wide range of aspects related to developing nutrition-sensitive value chains, provide constructive input to the discussion paper, and include a number of very specific experiences of developing value chains in the field.

The RBA Working Group also introduces an additional question for discussion: given that actions to enhance nutritional value can be taken at different stages of the value chain, which are likely to be the most cost-effective at addressing malnutrition in a given context?

Please visit the webpage for the full introduction to the discussion topic and to read the contributions received so far. Here you can also download the background paper in English, French or Spanish.

We would like to encourage you to take advantage of these last days to share your input on this important topic with us. Please post your comments online upon registration to the FSN Forum or send them to FSN-moderator@fao.org.

We look forward to keep receiving your contributions!

Your FSN Forum team


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

Thank you to all the contributors who participated this past week! The consultation will still be open until April 19, so we hope that others will keep writing in with their thoughts and experiences related to nutrition-sensitive value chains.

This week featured an impressive range of contributions, which was notable not only for describing the actions that can be taken by individual value chain actors (e.g. farmers, agribusinesses or governments), but also the relationships among different value chain actors and the more coordinated action we should seek to achieve, including through a more enabling environment. We were very happy to see that numerous contributors were able to share specific experiences they have had at country level working with value chains – these will be very informative for our work moving forward.
One key theme which continued this week was how value chains can benefit smallholder farmers more, i.e. how can smallholders capture more of the value (economic and nutritional) that is being created along a value chain? A couple different contributors shared useful experiences related to farmers’ organizations, associations or cooperatives, which enable smallholders to collectively negotiate purchase agreements as well as access vital inputs, including loans. An honest, transparent, mutually beneficial relationship between smallholders, purchasers (e.g. agribusinesses, processors, marketers, etc.), input providers (e.g. banks) and consumers is foundational, with several contributors noting the importance of traceability of raw materials and private sector colleagues also sharing their experience with more responsible sourcing and investing in smallholders livelihoods.

The experience from Cote d’Ivoire also described the precarious position farmers often find themselves in, but this time, among a less discussed group: urban market gardeners. While itself having developed as an innovative response to the food need generated by urbanization, urban gardening still contend with the consequences of urbanization (e.g. pollution) and lack of land tenure.

Indeed, addressing these issues can contribute to more nutrition-sensitive value chains via an income pathway, where smallholders are more empowered and earning better income, which could wind up getting spent on more nutritious food or health services. But what will it take to apply these types of models that are common in export-oriented cash crops to value chains for nutritious foods that also benefit local nutritionally vulnerable populations? Several contributors addressed this questions by stressing the importance of a business case for nutritious foods, which relies not only on creating demand among consumers (via awareness, labelling), but also working with producers, processors, etc. to increase their understanding of the benefits (including economic) of producing nutritious food.
Looking beyond value chains from a smallholder perspective, it is also important to consider what contribution value chains can make to the broader group of consumers through a market pathway. These also include many farmers who are net consumers, but also urban consumers or others who access food in markets or through other distributions channels supplied by food value chains. Colleagues from LANSA shared another framework for value chain interventions, which focuses specifically on the link between distribution and consumption post-farm gate, and the role of markets, informal sector and SMEs. We believe this framework can be complementary to the one we have presented in our background paper, by focusing on the effectiveness of interventions as well as bottlenecks and incentives that might determine positive private and public action for nutrition in this key phase of the value chain.

A key step that is required for nutrition-sensitive value chains, however, is still to define what the nutrition problem is. Various commodities can be selected and various actions taken at different stages to enhance nutritional value, but which are likely to be the most cost-effective at addressing particular drivers of malnutrition in a given context? Linking value chain actions more closely with nutrition assessment and analysis would not only be part of making them more nutrition-sensitive, but also making them more nutrition-smart. We are grateful to hear any experiences the forum participants may have had with linking nutrition assessment to value chain actions, including through commodity selection or other strategies.

Thanks again for the great participation and we look forward to more contributions, especially for those who may have some educational experiences to share with us!

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


iconKouakou Valentin Kra, Université Alassane Ouattara, Côte d’Ivoire

Kouakou discusses the case of intra-urban agriculture and market gardening in Ivory Coast. These production models provide significant opportunities in the context of promoting nutrition-sensitive value chains (NSVC) because of their proximity to cities and accessibility the whole year round. However, in order to sustain and protect intra-urban agriculture, it needs to be taken out of the informal sector and should be taken into account in city policies. In addition, protecting intra-urban agricultural areas, providing subsidies and organizing farmers could promote intra-urban agriculture. 

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iconEduardo Mosquera Llanos, +Ambiente, Colombia

According to Eduardo, a lack of effective government presence leads to inadequate linkages among value chains, which in turn constrains constructive decision-making by farmers for sustainable food security.

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iconWaddilove Sansole, SNV, Zimbabwe

Waddilove argues that in order to significantly improve nutrition, more than one food system or commodity needs to be considered, and that nutrition-sensitivity needs to be promoted right from the production stage. He also points to the importance of taking into account the maturity stage of value chains, which could be a significant determinant for the adoption of a NSVC lens: some value chains could be ‘ready’ for nutrition sensitivity, while others are still in the stage of quality product development. Some VCs could even be developed as NSVCs right from the onset. 

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iconGildas Tiwang, Cameroon

Gildas stresses the need for a better management of farming contracts between cooperatives of farmers, agribusiness companies (in particular processing companies) and banks. Agribusinesses should support farmers in getting access to finance, which will ensure timely and high quality supply of agricultural produce. Agribusinesses should then pay farmers in the following ways: in cash, by providing agricultural inputs for the new farming season, and by providing processed food made from the produce of the farmers, such as flour. This method could enhance food production as well as farmer wellbeing.

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iconHélène Delisle, University of Montreal, Canada

Helen shares a number of aspects to be considered in thinking about how to develop NSVCs, including: 1) household food security, objective and subjective, as well as quantitative and qualitative, could be a prominent indicator of successful NSCVs; 2) local and efficient processing of local foods deserves more attention, and 3) nutrition-sensitive food processing technologies which have not been widely been adopted, such as parboiling.

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iconAdebayo Depo, Togo

In addressing the discussion questions, Adebayo shares various examples of NSVCs in his country. For instance, cotton oil has been fortified with Vitamin A, fortified maize flour has been produced, and the leaves of the moringa oleifera tree are now being dried at low temperatures to prevent loss of vitamins and minerals. In addition, Adebayo stresses that in promoting NSVC development, value chain actors should be trained and a multisectoral approach is needed.

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iconFrank Eyhorn, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation, Switzerland

Frank points out that as most value chains are driven by private sector entities which often focus on specific commodities, it is difficult to identify the business case for diversification and for the production of nutritious foods. Nutrition-sensitive approaches seem to be more easily implemented by development actors. In addition, he adds a hypothesis that could be useful for the background paper:  “scaling-up sustainable food value chains and systems requires four factors to work together: 1) know-how at the production and value chain level; 2) market demand; 3) a conducive policy environment, and 4) multi-stakeholder collaboration”.

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iconHelen Medina, Nestlé, Switzerland

Helen discusses a number of examples of the work of Nestlé related to making value chains more nutrition-sensitive. First of all, responsible sourcing allows the company to ensure the supply of high quality produce and to better support rural development. Second, through programmes such as Farmer Connect, livelihoods of farmers are enhanced and farmers are specifically supported in improving food availability and diversity, for instance by training them in nutrition and by promoting intercropping. In addition, Nestlé engages in fortification and biofortification. A supply chain for maize rich in Vitamin A has for instance been established in Nigeria.

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iconSebastian Romero Villamil, Colombia

Sebastian introduces the association of Colombian coffee producers, FNC, which represents more than 555.000 coffee producers. FNC has a clear vision regarding social development and aims at sustainable coffee production in social, economic and environmental terms. The association for instance engages in research to optimize production costs and maximize the quality of the coffee. Sebastian also addresses other discussion questions, and argues that there is a need for developing a general action plan that is understandable to the people, and that in the context of this implementation plan, each link of the value chain should be monitored.

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