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Making the World Food Day vision a reality

improving the nutrition status of rural women and their children

October 16, 2015

This year’s World Food Day explores the theme of 'Social protection and agriculture: breaking the cycle of rural poverty'. CTA’s work is at the forefront of this ambition and shows how improving food and nutrition security outcomes and strengthening linkages between agriculture and nutrition can help break the cycle of rural poverty.

Two of the most visible outcomes of enhancing agricultural performance are improved food and nutrition status of women and children and rural prosperity. Advancing an agenda that promotes economic development, sustainable agricultural systems, sound natural resource management and social safety nets will contribute to poverty reduction.

However, success in these endeavours depends on policy coherence, well implemented programmes, an enabling investment climate and collaboration between and among actors in the public and private sectors and across a range of disciplines. Approaches that support inclusive value-chain development, continuous innovation in products, processes and services, wider strategic use of information and communication technologies and capacity strengthening of individuals, organisations and institutions will make the vision of this World Food Day – breaking the cycle of rural poverty – a reality. Agribusiness development should be intensified, especially in rural communities.

On this World Food Day, CTA places the spotlight on improving food and nutrition security outcomes and strengthening the linkages between agriculture and nutrition as priorities for breaking the cycle of rural poverty. The special circumstance of women and young children in rural communities and marginalised urban centres must be prioritised and sufficiently addressed by all.

Agricultural growth has a greater influence on poverty reduction

In its report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) noted that “In sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural growth can be 11 times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in non-agricultural sectors.” In short, investment in agriculture equates to increases in rural incomes and, in turn, improved social outcomes. The report further states: “Growth in family farming and smallholder agriculture, through labour and land productivity increases, has significant positive effects on the livelihoods of the poor through increases in food availability and incomes.” The Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goals 1 and 2, focus on ending poverty and hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture. Yet these are not new issues for either governments or development actors or for those most affected – rural women and the young. Increasing the impact of investments and targeted interventions for the benefit of the poor and disadvantaged must be demonstrated at community level.

ACP data show food and nutrition security is crucial

CTA held a workshop in Dakar in September 2015 that was aimed at sharing evidence to strengthen the agriculture–nutrition nexus in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). Experts from ACP and EU countries shared data and discussed the evidence from recent studies commissioned by CTA as part of  its thematic focus, Strengthening Systems to Optimise Agriculture and Nutrition Outcomes. Entry points for improving food and nutrition security outcomes were identified. Data on the national situation in several countries confirm the challenges ahead.  

Statistics from Cameroon

Florence Fonteh Anyangwe, Associate Professor from the University of Dschang, demonstrated the case for strengthening the agriculture–nutrition nexus in Cameroon. For children under five and women aged 15 – 49 years, the nutrition picture was gloomy.

Children under five:
• Infant mortality was 144 per 1000 live births
• 33% are stunted
• 12.9% suffer from severe growth retardation
• 69.1% - 80.5% are deficient in zinc
• 38 - 40% are deficient in iron
• 35-43% are deficient in vitamin A
• 28.1 – 43.6% are deficient in vitamin B12

Women between the ages of 15 and 49:
• 2.6 – 17.8% were underweight
• 72.6 – 86.5% were deficient in zinc
• 14.8 – 32.2% were deficient in vitamin A
• 10.5 – 17.8% were deficient in folate

In all cases, the most nutritionally challenged were from North Cameroon. Severe food insecurity existed in the North (3.7%). 53% of the national population live in rural areas and most are too poor to buy food. 

Prof Anyangwe identified the rich policy environment and institutional framework that exist for food and nutrition going back to 2006 but noted the limited resources – both human and financial – and inadequacy of data that contributed to poor implementation. Several stakeholder clusters, including international agencies, non-governmental organisations and donors, also execute activities aimed at improving the food and nutrition situation, including in northern Cameroon, but communication is only one way, directed to farmers’ and women’s groups. The evidence suggests that present efforts aimed at improving agriculture, food and nutrition outcomes are not working for the most vulnerable. This picture is the same for several other ACP countries involved in the CTA pilots. Despite the multiplicity of policies, actors and programmes working to address food and nutrition issues, lack of coordination, limited data and capacity and poor understanding of the challenge are reducing the efficacy at community, household and individual level. Rural women and children are impacted.

Tell us what you think

CTA would like to hear from you on this topic. If you have any questions about the data presented in this article and its implications, or would like to share your opinion on CTA’s work in this area, feel free to strike up a conversation with us on our Facebook page.

Stay connected

• Follow the #WFD2015 and #CTAnutrition Twitter conversation with @CTAflash.
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• Explore resources on 'Improving nutrition through accountability, ownership and partnerships' available on the Brussels Briefings website
• Read more at the official FAO World Food Day page
• Download the report The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015
• Explore the interactive State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 map
• Read more about CTA's workshop in Dakar in this article 'Strengthening the connection between agriculture and nutrition – What is CTA doing?'
• Explore the World Bank's data bank on the MDGs