Food and nutrition security is a true challenge

Writer: Rojana Manowalailao, ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems

One in ten people in ASEAN is hungry and 9.6 per cent of people living in Southeast Asia are under-nourished, according to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Though many ASEAN countries improved significantly in poverty reduction, and securing adequate food, many are still struggling in producing safe and nutritious food that meets dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life, according to a definition agreed at 1996 World Food Summit.

A high level policy dialogue on Food and Nutrition Security and the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework in Myanmar was organisedin Nay Pyi Taw in September 2015.
A high level policy dialogue on Food and Nutrition Security and the ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework in Myanmar was organisedin Nay Pyi Taw in September 2015.

Food and nutrition security has been put into the global agenda for decades; however, putting sufficient, affordable, nutritious, and safe food on the table for all populations remains a true challenge. This does not include the fact that food production will need to increase by at least 60 per cent to provide food security for the 9 billion people over the next 35 years.

Aiming at improving food and nutrition security in the region, ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems (ASEAN SAS) has been providing technical supports to ASEAN Member States on policy framework, implementation of production technologies, and market linkages over the past two years since started. The project gears to increase awareness and understanding of food security and nutrition and the ‘ASEAN Integrated Food Security (AIFS) Framework’ among the Member States and pushes for an implementation of national policies and strategies in line with the AIFS Framework as a solution for long-term food security in the ASEAN region. The AIFS Framework was adopted by the ASEAN leaders in 2009, and was reiterated in 2014.

[su_note note_color=”#d2f6df” radius=”7″]Food production will need to increase by at least 60 per cent to provide food security for the 9 billion people over the next 35 years.[/su_note]

Having this aim in mind, policy dialogues on food security and nutrition and the AIFS Framework in Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand were organised to give platforms for relevant ministries and concerned parties to discuss key challenges, issues, roles and responsible of the agencies concerned, and the contribution of the Sustainable Agrifood Systems towards food security.

Mr. Cheattho Prak from Cambodia (right) said he was now better aware that food and nutrition security was not only about producing a sufficient amount of food for the country.
Mr. Cheattho Prak from Cambodia (right) said he was now better aware that food and nutrition security was not only about producing a sufficient amount of food for the country.

In contributing to food security and nutrition policy, trainings on food and nutrition security for regional practitioners, and government officers in Lao PDR, and Thailand were also conducted in 2015 to raise awareness and understating on food and nutrition security and strengthen capacity of the personnel at regional and national levels in developing and implement effective policies and strategies addressing food and nutrition security.

Mr. Cheattho Prak, Deputy Director-General of the General Directorate of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Cambodia said before the regional training he initially only concerned about producing sufficient food to meet the demands of the country when talking about food and nutrition security.

“I am now better aware that food security is also about having a sustained variety of nutritious and safe food. For example, children should know about the kind of food they eat, how to select and cook properly,” he said.

[su_note note_color=”#f6dbd2″ radius=”7″]“I am now better aware that food security is also about having a sustained variety of nutritious and safe food. For example, children should know about the kind of food they eat, how to select, cook, and eat properly.” [/su_note]

Organic vegetables are displayed at a shop in Taman Simalem Resort supplied by local farmers living nearby the resort.
Organic vegetables are displayed at a shop in Taman Simalem Resort supplied by local farmers living nearby the resort.

ASEAN SAS has in addition implemented pilot projects with public and private sectors to showcase successful crop protection and pest management models through the use of Biological Control Agents (BCA) and Integrated Pest Management that sustain the livelihoods and competiveness of local agriculture for the future development of regionally-coordinated and national policy and strategy recommendations.

Indonesia, for example, the Project has partnered with the agro-tourism Taman Simalem Resort (Tsr) together with the Islamic University of North Sumatra in providing knowledge and skills to local farmers on the use of bio-inputs, and giving certification support for organic production. About 70 farmers adopted organic practices and received ‘Organik Indonesia’ certification. Income of organic farmers was increased by 180 percent for growing organic fruits and vegetables since the establishment of partnership.

Ersemina Munthe, farmer from Treasure of Farmers Group – Organik Indah Lestari said: “We have yields increased and earn higher incomes because we change from traditional farming with chemical inputs to organic practices. And, we have farming contract with Tsr which provides us supports needed for organic farming and also receive our produces at a guaranteed price.”

[su_note note_color=”#d2eaf6″ radius=”7″]Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. (1996 World Food Summit) [/su_note]

Besides the continuing support of policy and strategy development at regional and national levels, in 2016-2017 ASEAN SAS will be particularly focusing on public-private partnership to complete the sustainable value chain needed to promote the use of bio inputs, soil and nutrient management, best production technologies, and successful business models that contribute to sustainable agrifood systems in the future.

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