Food security

Multi-sector nutrition and food security is an emerging priority of government and development partners in their policies, strategies and plans. Therefore, regular monitoring is the key to ensure the effective implementation of such policies

In a country like ours where the majority of the population live in rural areas and rely on subsistence agriculture, poverty reduction is a priority agenda in national development policies, strategies and plans. Despite some progress in reducing hunger targets and malnutrition in developing countries, the existing efforts are hindered by slower and less inclusive economic growth as well as political instability at large.

In most of the developing countries, the overwhelming majority of the poor live in rural areas where they face acute challenges of food insecurity, hunger and rural poverty. One of the encouraging signs is that the practice of family farming is on the rise. This has significant positive effects on the livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable populations due to increased food availability and incomes.

More importantly, breaking the cycle of rural poverty through social protection and agriculture is the theme of this year’s World Food Day which aims to raise public awareness about hunger challenges and encourage people worldwide to take action in the fight against hunger.

Undoubtedly, social protection plays a significant role in reducing chronic food insecurity and poverty by ensuring direct access to food or the means to buy food. Evidence shows that reliable and regular social protection schemes can help poor communities to overcome some of the financial constraints. In particular, such schemes contribute to an overall reduction of the poverty gap by empowering families and communities towards sustainable livelihoods.

While talking about the food security, we need to consider the important role of farmers in feeding the planet and producing energy for life. In fact, they have the task of producing quality safe food in order to achieve the goal of food security for everyone.

As the population is increasing globally, the demand for safe food will continue to rise. According to FAO, agricultural production must increase by 60 per cent globally to meet the food demand that will be required to feed the 9.2 billion people who will inhabit our planet in 2050.

Food insecurity and malnutrition are closely interlinked. Progress towards food security and nutrition targets requires that food is available, accessible and of sufficient quantity and quality to ensure good nutritional outcomes. Good nutrition contributes to human development, and it helps people realize their full potential and take advantage of opportunities offered by the development process.

In particular, the challenge of hunger and malnutrition in South Asia is complex and multi-faceted. It will require a multi-pronged approach, including interventions for greater availability of food through improved agricultural production; enhanced livelihoods for secure access; education for improved food utilization; clean water for improving health and nutrient uptake; women’s empowerment and social protection for an equitable distribution of food and a focus on resources among other relevant interventions.

The right to adequate food as a human right was first formally recognized by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) from 1948, as a part of the right to a decent standard of living. In the UDHR Article 25 it was stated that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-

being including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.

In order to address the nutrition and food security challenges at the grass-roots, there is a clear need to advocate right to food movements, policies and legislation across the country. Strengthening partnership and networking with civil society organizations, farmers’ organizations, academia, and research community promotes an enabling environment to ensure legal framework on the right to food issues.

In Nepal, the recent agriculture development strategy and multi-sector nutrition plan (2013-2017) are key milestones in ensuring food and nutrition security for all.

In addition, Nepal Food Security Monitoring System (NeKSAP) collects, analyzes and presents information on household food security, emerging crises, markets and nutrition across the country. It is considered as a comprehensive food security monitoring and analysis system at national and district levels.

The NeKSAP was initially established by the World Food Programme. It is now being institutionalized in the Ministry of Agricultural Development in close coordination with National Planning Commission.

Despite several efforts from development partners, civil society organisations, private sector, food insecurity is still a major challenge in most of the remote districts.

As a matter of priority, the vulnerable populations who are landless, socially excluded and marginalised in the communities should be the prime focus of nutrition and food security programmes. Over the years, multi-sector nutrition and food security is an emerging priority of both government and development partners in their policies, strategies and plans.

Therefore, regular monitoring and evaluation is the key to ensure the effective implementation of such policies, strategies and plans for nutrition and food security for all.

Bhandari is PhD candidate in public health at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.