(Tuyen Huynh & Madelline Romero, CIAT)

Globally, our diets are killing us, Jessica Fanzo has reported in the event on Food systems and Nutrition. Diets are now the top risk factor of disease, disability and death. It is also showed in the presentation by Jessica Fanzo that ‘Global diets are less sustainable depending on what the food is, where it is grown, and how it is grown. Some foods, such as beef and other large ruminants have a higher impact on the planet in terms of GHGe, land and water use and forest and biodiversity loss. But other non-animal foods can have different environmental footprints depending on how they are grown. Regardless, our diets are overall becoming less sustainable as the world demands more animals source foods with wealth accumulation’.

Currently, Asia is facing with a number of challenges, including:

But there are also ways to deal with the challenges:

Although there are opportunities that can enable Asia to deal with the above challenges, there is a need for guidelines that provide a roadmap to policy entry points within food systems with the goal to improve diets and nutrition outcomes.

With the aim to foster discussion and debate around policy and institutional reforms to promote sustainable food systems improving nutrition and enable healthy diets, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is undertaking a policy process which will lead to the development of Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition. Pursuing a wide and inclusive process, the CFS Secretariat is orgainizing a series of regional consultations to receive feedback and inputs on the from a broad range of stakeholders in order to improve the existing draft and foster awareness and broad ownership among key parties and all CFS stakeholders.

The Voluntary Guidelines are informed by the findings and scientific evidence provided in the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition’s (HLPE) Report on Nutrition and Food Systems. They will provide guidance to help countries operationalize the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) Framework for Action recommendations in support to the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) “to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”.

The main five categories and related drivers that were identified in the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition’s Report are:

The five main categories and related drivers that were identified in the HLPE report are:

  1. Biophysical and environmental (natural resource and ecosystem services, climate change)
  2. Innovation, technology and infrastructure
  3. Political and economic (leadership, globalization, foreign investment, trade, food policies, land tenure, food prices and volatility, conflicts and humanitarian crises)
  4. Socio-cultural (culture, religion, rituals, social traditions, gender inequalities and women’s empowerment)
  5. Demographic drivers (population growth, changing age distribution, urbanization, migration and forced displacement)

Joining this effort, together with stakeholders from different countries in Asia, Country Coordination and Engagement Unit of Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH CCE) in Vietnam participated in CFS Regional Consultation on Food systems and Nutrition for Asia and the Pacific held in Bangkok on 25-26 July 2019 and contributed to giving feedbacks and inputs on the four chapters of the Zero Draft of the Voluntary Guidelines. Spoken at the event, A4NH CCE in Vietnam believed that these Voluntary Guidelines once endorsed by CFS are useful for different stakeholders, especially at national and regional levels.


CFS Regional Consultation on Food systems and Nutrition for Asia and the Pacific held in Bangkok on 25-26 July 2019 (Photo by CFS)

For example, different ministries in Vietnam can map their activities into the recommended interventions in the three food system elements documented in the guidelines and refer to for information during the policy making process for the country to find synergies and also scope with tradeoffs among food system elements. Specifically, Vietnam has launched Zero Hunger National Action Plan in 2018 to provide enough food and nutrition for people in order to enhance Vietnamese people’s health, intelligence and stature; and, at the same time, implement Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 to which the Government has committed with the United Nations (UN). To target its objectives, the Government is carrying out the Zero Hunger model in 1,000 poor communes applying nutrition sensitive approach, led by Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in collaboration with other ministries. The nutrition-sensitive policy guidelines and recommendations in this Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition such as linking farm to school, nutrition-sensitive trade policies, and social and behavioral change communication can be good guidelines for the government to prioritize intervention activities to be implemented in the Zero Hunger model in Vietnam to ensure the synergies among different sectors in the country.

Moreover, under the umbrella of Agriculture for Nutrition and Health CRP program, a food system profile along the rural-urban transet in Vietnam is being developed using both existing secondary data and primary data from the A4NH partial baseline assessment in Vietnam. This profile will give a visualized summary on food system elements’ indicators and its drivers for diets and nutrition outcomes as evidences-based and also priority actions in food supply chains, food environment, and consumer behavior to be taken into account for the local government policy making process to target SDG 2 on zero hunger in Vietnam.

Check some of what has been done with the datasets in Fighting hunger through the mapping of key food systems indicators in the 1000 poorest communes of Vietnam.

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