A High Level Forum on ‘Food and Nutrition Security’ was organized by HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation (HSI) in collaboration with Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Secretariat, Planning Commission Govt. of Pakistan under Nutrition in Mountain Agro-ecosystems(NMA)Project. The forum was attended by the Deputy High Commissioner of Australian Embassy in Pakistan, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, parliamentarians of different political parties, government officials, SUN, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Pakistan, UN organizations, INGOs, local elected representatives, civil society, academia, Journalists, Rural Support Providers (RSPs) and farmers groups of different regions i.e. FATA, GB and KP.
- Welcome Address
Mr. Aslam Shaheen, SUN Focal person, in his welcome address, shared alarming statistics relating to malnutrition in Pakistan and the whole world. He said that about 2 billion people around the globe were suffering from micronutrient deficiency. In Pakistan, he added that, 44% of children were suffering from stunted growth while about 16% were wasted. He informed the forum that Pakistan Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy had been developed and was going to be launched soon. Mr. Shaheen updated the forum on National Nutrition Survey 2018 that would be completed soon and would contribute to the upcoming Global Nutrition Report. He, on behalf of the planning commission, Govt. of Pakistan extended his gratitude to the Embassy of Australia, SDC, IFOAM and all other donors and actors for assisting the Government in its initiatives for nutrition security in Pakistan.
- Objectives of the Event
While elaborating objectives of the event, Dr. Arjumand Nizami, Country Director HSI, briefly elaborated about ‘Nutrition in Mountain Agro-ecosystems’ project of HSI funded by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). She told the forum that nutrition was a multi-sectoral issue and should be mainstreamed across the sectors for nutrition security through behavioral change. She added that Mass Media could play a vital role in awareness and policy influence regarding nutrition. She further pleaded for inclusion of nutrition security in manifesto of all the political parties and stressed personal and state commitments for eradication of malnutrition. Dr. Arjumand elaborated the event objectives as following;
° To update stakeholders on achievements of NMA project
° To share learnings and experiences of the project with stakeholders for capitalization and expansion to other mountainous areas
° To determine a way forward
° To obtain commitment of political parties and their leaders for contributing to nutrition security in the country
- Food Fortification
Dr. Baseer Achakzai, Secretary Food Fortification Alliance gave a comprehensive note on nutrition and food fortification. He elucidated that malnutrition was not only an issue of affordability or availability of nutrient food but it was also because of life style or culture e.g. bottle feeding had become a fashion while it was like a poison, in comparison, breast feeding protected infants against many infectious and chronic diseases. He further elaborated that Pakistan was one of the largest wheat donors of WFP but itself faced nutrition deficiency not because of scarcity of quality food but just due to malpractices e.g. 92% of fast food was wasted due to its short life. He further added that mountain areas of Pakistan were comparatively more disadvantaged and should be focused by all the actors collectively.
- Importance of Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture
Dr. Azeem Khan, Member Food Security and Climate Change, Planning Commission of Pakistan highlighted importance of high value agriculture. He informed the forum about the SUN movement and commitments of Pakistan Government regarding food and nutrition security. He updated the forum that Government had allocated 10 billion Pak. Rupees through Annual Development Programme to support nutrition related ventures. He further added that availability of nutrition sensitive food was also an obligation of the government under Vision 2025, MGDs and SGDs. He stressed on behavioral change and meaningful partnership for mountains development programme to have a healthy nation.
- Remarks by His Excellency, the Australian Deputy High Commissioner
Mr. Brek Batly, Deputy Head of Mission Embassy of Australia, appraised the forum that Australia was aware of the alarming situation of malnutrition in Pakistan and also knew the potentials to cope with the crises. He told the forum that mitigating malnutrition was a collective responsibility of all the nations and Australia was part of it. He added that scarcity of food water and nutrition was a great challenge for Pakistan which needed policy measures and long term commitments. Similarly he hinted at the need of multi stakeholder’s partnership and educating communities on health and nutrition issues.
- NMA Learning and Way Forward
Project leader of NMA made a detailed presentation on the project background, its framework, approaches, achievements and learnings. She also illustrated global and Pakistan situation regarding nutrition. She told that NMA was implemented, in the last three years, in mountain regions of five countries i.e. Pakistan, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Ethiopia and Peru through a consortium of IFOAM Organic International, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation and FiBL. The project aimed at improved access of mountain dwellers to sufficient nutritious food and strived to achieve the goal through promoting nutrition sensitive agriculture, capacity building and networking of service providers, and advocacy for national nutrition sensitive policies. She added that the 1st phase of the project had been completed successfully and it was expected to continue with its 2nd phase (detail presentation enclosed as Annex-2)
- Brain Storming – Views of Participants
During a brainstorming session, the participants expressed their views and suggestions as following:
° Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government is committed to nutrition security and most of the required measures i.e. high value agriculture and livestock, tunnel farming and value chain development are part of its Annual Development Plans.
° It is more effective to go with integrated approach and take all the govt. line departments along for sustainability beyond the project life (Executive Director LASOONA Society).
° Urbanization is posing threats to nutrition security through converting agriculture lands into roads, markets and towns etc. In the given situation there is a need of innovative techniques e.g. kitchen gardening and roof top agriculture.
° All the segments of a given community need to be focused equitably i.e. youth should also be considered along with children and lactating women and awareness should be raised in all age and gender groups about both nutrition sensitive production and consumption.
° Proper seed of appropriate varieties should be selected for kitchen gardening and roof top agriculture.
° Research should be conducted on nutritious, climate smart and low cost species e.g. Moringa.
° Organic farming should be promoted through demonstrations.
° Farmers should also on their own consumption instead of selling the whole produce.
° Model interventions in Haripur should be replicated in GB and other parts of the project area.
° All HH members should have same access to nutritious food.
° Communities should start adopting healthy practices; similarly projects should also start with small things instead of waiting high level policies.
° Careful selection should be made while purchasing food items to get more nutrient rich food.
- Panel Discussion – Contribution of Political Parties and Leaders to Addressing Nutrition in Pakistan
A panel of parliamentarians of different parties including Ms. Rahila Hameed Khan Durrani, Speaker Baluchistan Assembly; Mr. Nadeem Imran, Member GB Legislative Assembly; Mr. Shehriyar Afridi, Member National Assembly; Ms. Amina Sardar, Member KP assembly; and Mr. Asif Ali, Member District Council Haripur, moderated by the well-known journalist Syed Talat Hussain, made a detail discussion on how the issue of malnutrition could be addressed through policy measures and legislation.
Consensus was developed on the following key points:
- Nutrition security has given little attention in the parliament even so it has become a national crisis
- It needs political will and state level initiatives to cope with the issue
- There should be a policy focus and even a separate ministry
- Harmful drinks and foods need to be regulated through proper laws and regulations
- As NGOs are complementing Government both should work in close collaboration to capitalize on each other experience.
- Research may be conducted for improvement in varieties of crops, weeds and fruits.
Similarly, all the panel members agreed that though research had been initiated to probe into the issue, still there were gaps in data of different strata/areas. The panel stressed on more in-depth research, policy measures and legislation to eradicate the menace of malnutrition. The panel also signed a memorandum of commitment with the following key recommendations to adopt nutrition as a political agenda and collectively work for Policy / legislation to meet the challenges of food and nutrition security.
Suggested Recommendations for Inclusion in Political Parties’ Manifestos
° Declare Nutrition and Food Security as a Fundamental Right in the party manifesto and advocate the same for inclusion in the Constitution of Pakistan.
° Adopt and implement Pakistan Multi-sectoral Nutrition Strategy and accelerate implementation of provincial Multi-sectoral Nutrition Strategies by allocating adequate financial resources.
° Develop a specific and fully funded budget line for nutrition in the annual national and provincial budgets with special attention to nutritional needs of vulnerable groups and marginalized communities.
° Develop a comprehensive action plan for implementation of SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), ensure enforcement of protection and promotion of breast feeding laws, and enactment of mandatory food fortification and food safety laws at national and provincial levels.
° Monitor progress on nutrition by establishing dedicated Parliamentary Committee for Nutrition and Food Security.
- Groups Display – Products, Tools, Techniques and Knowledge Material
Panel members and all other participants of the forum visited food stalls displayed by different farmers groups, RSPs and civil society organizations for awareness, learning and replication purposes. The exposition comprised organic and nutrient rich vegetable, fruits, honey, herbs, extracts, grains and legumes mostly produced by target farmer groups. Relevant literature, infographics and messages relating to nutrition sensitive food and agriculture had also been displayed at the stalls.
Deputy Country Director HSI, Dr. Jawad Ali conveyed HSI appreciation to all the honorable guests, panel members and participants for their support and contribution to the common cause of national health.
Some News clippings of the event are below: