Women at the core for diverse diets and nutrition

This was the central message at the European Commission´s DG DEVCO Lunchtime Conference on 13 December at the External Cooperation Infopoint in Brussels on the topic "Monitoring multi-sectoral interventions for diverse diets and nutrition" presented by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and GIZ. Focusing on methodology, results and highlights of a baseline aurvey of the programme "Food and nutrition security, enhanced resilience", the speakers lined out the food and nutrition situation in ten Asian and African countries.

In his opening speech, Jean-Pierre Halkin, head of unit of DEVCO C1 Rural Development, Food Security, Nutrition, underlined the importance of development agencies to work together on challenges concerning nutrition with a special focus on women. He highlighted the strong partnership with GIZ and BMZ on these issues and felt encouraged by the fact that science is brought back onto the agenda. This is in line with the plan of the Commission to reach its commitment of reducing stunting in children under five by at least 10% (7 million children) by 2025 (Action Plan on Nutrition).

Sabrina Ziesemer, Senior Policy Officer BMZ Division "Food and Nutrition Security, Global Food Policy," pointed out that BMZ through its special initiative "ONE WORLD – No Hunger" puts the fight against hunger and malnutrition as a key objective. For this cause the BMZ invests 1.5 billion Euros a year out of which resulted ten baseline studies in ten countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenia, Malawi, Mali, Togo, and Zambia) in order to get an overview of the food and nutrition situation. The studies were conducted by the Global Program "Food and Nutrition Security, Enhanced Resilience", being financed by the BMZ´s special initative.

Markolf Maczek, Project Manager of the Global Programme, presented the methodology of the study. The Programme conducted interviews with more than 4,000 women living in rural areas in Africa and Asia. One objective was to obtain data regarding the prevalence of children receiving a minimum acceptable diet (MAD) and the degree of dietary diversity of women of reproductive age (IDDS/MDD-W) who made up the target group as they are generally more affected by malnutrition than other persons. Dr. Petra Windisch-Stumpf, also Project Manager of the Global Programme, presented the results of the baseline. Many regions under study show a gap between production and consumption or knowledge and application. The study illustrated that in 90% of the cases at least one agricultural variable is a positive predictor for MDD-W hence improved agricultural practices could potentially lead towards a more nutritious diet for women and children. However, nutrition counselling was not a strong predictor for a more nutritious diet. As a result from the study, it is recommended to especially focus on gender in agricultural interventions. Dr. Windisch proposes to "look to women as farmers and not only as mothers".

In the end of the event, Dr. Martina Kress, Planning Officer Nutrition and Resilience - Section Rural Development, Food and Nutrition Security at GIZ, presented an outlook on diet diversity and MDD-W in GIZ`s work. She stressed the need to anchor nutrition in institutions and policy as well as to see nutrition in a broader food systems approach (multi-sectorial). She perceives the MDD-W as an efficient methodology and stressed that "MDD-W is more than just an indicator. It can be used as a policy objective. We would like to see this happen and see national agricultural policies take it up as one of their objectives and goals."