Learning about food system functioning for Food and Nutrition Security through exchange
“The many components of food systems may create trade-offs in the short and the long term, such as affordability of food versus nutritional value.” This was one of the conclusions about working through a Food System Perspective in research for Food and Nutrition Security. Eight consortia of projects funded in the third call of the Food & Business Global Challenges Programme (GCP-3) gathered in Accra, Ghana, for the midterm meeting for the dual purpose of learning and assessing progress made. The meeting was organized by NWO-WOTRO and included a public event that was organized by the Food & Business Knowledge Platform.
Midterm meeting GCP-3 projects
Of the eight projects represented five are at their midterm stage (after two years of action), at which consortia had gathered with partners and stakeholders in their respective countries to complete self-assessment reports. These reports provided input for the joint midterm meeting, in which midterm findings were shared with peer-consortia. Three consortia of Fast Track projects (that have a duration of three years) participated as well, to share their (near) final results. The meeting was held in Accra because two projects are active in Ghana; the rest is dispersed across the world. In addition to the Ghanaian partners, participants were from Chile, Uruguay, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Kenya and the Netherlands. It is in these countries that the projects are working each on their own theme with regard to Food and Nutrition Security.
Emerging results on Food Systems from GCP-3 projects
With regard to the focus on food systems that cuts across the projects, interesting results were shared. Research findings shared included a “diagnosis” of horticultural food systems in Chile and Uruguay, in which it was found that five systems co-exist in the studied areas. The consortium of the HortEco project aims to strengthen the organic vegetable system by finding a niche for it to scale up. The Fish4Food project identified the mainly informal systems through which cities in India and Ghana are provided with nutritious fish for poor urban consumers. Interestingly, the conclusion is that the informal systems function well and that formalization may imply higher costs and thus lower access for such consumers. Concerns exist about the finding that adulteration of fish leads to food safety issues: a matter, amongst others, that the project will focus on in the second phase. The MarketSafe project concluded after the first rounds of Randomised Control Trials that Aflasafe as a treatment for Aflatoxin finds adoption among farmers if a premium price is offered for maize. A market that offers a premium price is, however, too remote from the area in which Aflatoxin is most prevalent. In the second phase of the project, the focus is on whether and how consumers are willing to buy safe maize and thus whether a market can be created.
Further, the project focusing on Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture interventions in remote mountainous areas in Lao and Vietnam shared baseline findings on health implications of malnutrition. Such as that stunting among children is high (48% in Lao and 58% in Vietnam) and a substantial percentage (62% in Lao and 77% in Vietnam) of households is food insecure. The project monitors NSA interventions, such as provision of nutritious lunches in schools, in which micro-entrepreneurship plays a key role. The inter-sectoral approach taken in the NSA interventions, and the engagement of the consortium with the relevant Ministries of Agriculture, Health and Education, offers promising pathways for achieving scaling of the interventions. The Cocoa project in Ghana and Ivory Coast is in the process of developing models for pruning and shading of cocoa trees as well as for monitoring carbon footprint of cocoa production. The project promotes cocoa production that provides farmers with a living income, which includes sufficient income to buy nutritious meals, to afford school fees, housing, health insurance. A major spin-off of the project is the COCOSOILS project, in which a wide range of cocoa corporations are involved and that seeks to share information on cocoa globally in accessible ways.
Final results of Fast Track projects
The Fast Track projects are nearing their end dates and they presented same key findings as well. The ADIAS project has identified the market for dairy in Kenya and Ethiopia and is developing transformation pathways for safe and affordable dairy production, that aligns with local demand. This implies that it not necessarily seeks to promote pasteurized dairy, as is common in development intervention, which sees very low adoption. The PASMI project has studied the production of Tiger Shrimp and Blue Swimming Crab, which play a role in sustainable aquaculture production that helps restore mangrove in Indonesia. In the last months the project seeks to link this with the findings on Chain Innovations, which will inform how farmers can raise their income, such as by harvesting crab at a later stage in its life cycle. The allotment gardens project has studied two pilot allotment plots in urban areas in Benin and sees results that show increased nutrition among producers. The availability of land has appeared to be a major issue, however, which will be further studied, the findings of which will feed the Site Allocation Tool that is under development.
Exchange on Food Systems
In a session on the Food Systems Perspective the participants shared their approaches on this perspective, in response to an input paper formulated by the consortium of the HortEco project (based on an (Open Access) published article of the consortium). Some conclusions of this session were:
- Normativity and political orientation/preference towards certain food systems must be made explicit in research and the (policy) systems they connect to.
- However, it was considered better to think about creating synergies between different food systems.
- Indicator-based systems can be useful to stimulate discussion, but should not be seen as a panacea.
- The many components of food systems may create trade-offs (e.g. food access versus nutritional value) in short and long term.
These findings were also shared with a wider Ghanaian audience in the public event that was organized at the afternoon at the last day of the event, organized by the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP). More information about this public event, including a summary video, a broadcast of how it was included in the Ghanaian news and a news item, can be found at the website of the F&BKP.
The report on the midterm meeting will be made available as soon as possible.
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