A number of gaps in research and action remain to be filled. As already mentioned, research- ers face the task of collecting much more evi- dence on the links among agriculture, nutrition, and health and on how they can be effectively exploited to improve human well-being. But it is also important not to be paralyzed in the face of a lack of evidence. For instance, more could be done to change the incentives embedded in agricultural policies to encourage farmers to pro- duce more highly nutritious foods. Looking at the whole bioeconomy—including agriculture’s role in producing food, feed, fiber, energy, and new industrial raw materials—may offer perspectives on how to make the whole system function more effectively for better health and nutrition. Food cannot be viewed just like any other commodity— it is a basic human need, like air, and policies must reflect this reality.
Finally, any solutions designed to leverage
agriculture for better nutrition and health will have to work in the context of a rising global population, growing incomes that lead to changing diets, and climate change that will likely put pressure on already scarce resources.
What, then, should the first steps be? The
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has identified elements of a way forward, including the following (the full
“Way Forward” statement appears at http://2020conference.ifpri.info/publications/the-
Fill the Knowledge Gaps
• Learn more about how different patterns of agricultural growth affect nutrition and health.
• Invest in research, evaluation, and education systems capable of integrating information from all three sectors.
• Fill the gap in governance knowledge at the global, national, and community levels.
Do No Harm
• Mitigate the health risks posed by agriculture along the value chain.
• Design health and nutrition interventions that contribute to the productivity of agricul- tural labor.
• Look carefully at the downstream effects of subsidies for production or consumption on consumers’ nutrition and health.
Seek Out and Scale Up Innovative
Solutions • Scale up successful interventions.
• Design agriculture, nutrition, and health pro- grams with cross-sectoral benefits.
• Incorporate nutrition into value chains for food products.
• Use all available levers for change.
• Increase consumers’ nutrition literacy and highlight the consequences of dietary choices.
Create an Environment in Which Cooperation Can Thrive
• Focus on partnerships among agriculture, nutrition, and health.
• Develop mutual accountability mechanisms among the three sectors.
• Correct market failures.
• Use communication and advocacy to bring about change.
The world faces major challenges in produc- ing the right quantity and quality of food to achieve good nutrition and health for all people. Yet this is also a moment of great opportunity. New attention to agriculture, growing evidence on the importance of nutrition for human and economic development, and the increasingly global nature of both infectious and noninfec- tious diseases are starting to create a greater willingness to consider joint solutions. Although the effort to exploit the synergies among agri- culture, nutrition, and health is still in its infancy, this effort offers real potential for improving the lives of millions of people worldwide.
“We have generated a lot of information about the potential for synergies among the three sectors, and this potential becomes clear when we start talking to one another. Policymakers have the chance to capture an enormous opportunity to improve people’s lives. Let us show them the way forward and support them in doing it.”
—Shenggen Fan, International Food Policy Research Institute 13
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