Food, nutrition security improvement crucial for ensuring sustainable

08Jul 2018
Guardian On Sunday
Food, nutrition security improvement crucial for ensuring sustainable

LIKE any other developing country, Tanzania has a large rural population with more than 67 per cent of them depending on agriculture.

This population is under a high nutrition deficit with nearly three-quarters of the country’s population being undernourished and 80 per cent of its hungry people are found there, according to a 2016 FAO Report.

By mapping the specific Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) needs and policies in the country, the ending of rural hunger project under the Brookings Institution identifies gaps and recommends policies for achieving FNS.

Ending hunger is an ambition that has been formally enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG2, which focuses on ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.

Economic and Research Foundation (ESRF) urges the government to embark on strategic interventions that would promote inclusive growth.

Such move, it says, needs to start from the position that the relationship between growth, inequality, poverty and unemployment should no longer be assumed inevitably to be trickling down or a trade-off.

In a study titled ‘Ending hunger in Tanzania: Strategic approach towards poverty reduction and achieving food and nutrition security’, Professor Haidari Amani and Patrick Kihenzile say that inclusive growth strategy recognises efforts to tackle poverty, inequality and promotion of growth and their linkages to food and nutrition security to mutually reinforce.

They suggest that the country needs to continue with its short- and medium-term interventions on food and nutrition security, basing on some priority criteria.

“Through prioritisation of food and nutrition insecurity pillars of food availability, food accessibility, food utilization interventions is to some extent difficult because these are quite interdependent,” they say.

According to them hunger, poverty, food and nutrition insecurity are among major development impediments in the country.
In their paper, they say arriving at zero hunger, reduced poverty, improvement in food and nutrition security are at the core for ensuring sustainable development.

They urge the government to target strategic interventions, such as irrigation farming and sustainable water and land use management to promote sustainable agriculture, increase agricultural productivity and rural commercialisation.

In response, the ESRF, with support of the government and the World Food Programme,  embarked on strategic review refocusing on imports, strategic and policies that bring together stakeholders to accelerate the attainment of zero hunger, reduced poverty, and food and nutrition security.

The analysis focused on the three pillars of food and nutrition security, namely, food availability, accessibility, utilization and nutrition.
Given that agriculture is perhaps the most important sector contributing to food security -both in terms of production and employment generation, analysis was also done on status and responses towards improving smallholder productivity and incomes as well as on sustainable agriculture, markets and food systems, all of which are important for achieving the three pillars of food security.

They have further urged the government to increase production and productivity of food samples such as maize, rice, green banana, cassava and beans, among others, to increase food availability in the country and ensure efficient and effective provision of agricultural services like infrastructures and transport systems.

However, the main problem of food security goes beyond the narrow definition. Other important factors contributing to food and nutrition insecurity are poverty, lack of stable employment, low productivity, and lower regular cash income. Hence, it is important to strategize on addressing food insecurity along with, among others, poverty alleviation programme.

With this broader understanding of food and nutrition security, strategic directions for improving food security require at least five major aspects of poverty and hunger alleviation policies to be taken into account.

These are macroeconomic policy, the impact of globalization, main streaming informal employment and legal empowerment of the poor, improving the capacity of poor people and their access to the economy, and taking a strategic approach  to poverty and hunger reduction.

More specifically, the main policy and strategy areas for accelerating the achievement of the second sustainable development goals (SDG2) and its targets are as follows: Focus on agricultural and rural development complemented with effective implementation of poverty alleviation programmes especially expanding employment opportunities to increase incomes.

Implementing a prop-poor trade policy, investing in research and development (R &D ), and considering a fair, open and rule-based trade system; enhance the role of informal  sector, gender mainstreaming and legal empowerment of poor people.

Improve poor people‘s capacity by improving education  and health sectors that are complemented by improved and accelerated structural transformation and inclusive growth of agricultural transformation and inclusive growth of agricultural transformation.

According to Prof. Amani and his colleague, in order to strategize on improving agricultural productivity, removal of constraints on agricultural marketing, processing and farm productivity requires focus on improved implementation of land tenure and reforms.

It should also focus on extension of agricultural research efforts, and continued research and extension focus on client responsiveness and engagement of farmers in the research process, and strong emphasis on sustainable use of land and water resources.

Irrigation and support for improved functioning of output and input markets, and for associated rural services including finance.

They further propose priority strategic areas for improving food availability in the country as: Enhance and support access to savings and credit facilities by small-scale farmers, processors and traders by enhancing the capacity and capabilities of savings and credit cooperative societies (SACCOS).

Others are savings and credit associations (SACAs) through improving their liquidity and diversification of loan portfolios, organizational and financial management skills, technical and infrastructural capabilities, and ability to up-scale and increase its networks through the use of modern technological options such as telephone banking.

They also suggest to the government to ensure that all villages within agro-ecological zones with high potential for food production - with adequate fertile land and annual precipitation - have land use plans.

Support investment in the implementation of climate change adaptation measures in the crop, livestock, and fisheries subsectors according to the national climate change strategy.

Increase budget support to raise the proportion of public budget allocated specifically to crop, livestock, fisheries, and related environmental management to 10 per cent of the GDP by 2025.

Expand the area of land under traditional and precision irrigation to about one million hectares in areas where climate smart agriculture can be undertaken by 2035.  

Double the use of modern agriculture technology and mechanization to about 50 per cent by 2030; and increase the public budget allocated to research and development to 1 per cent of the GDP by 2025.

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