By Helen Medina
Did you know that March is National Nutrition Month in the United States? For policymakers, nutrition is top of mind. In fact, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals place nutrition and the mission to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” at number 2 only after Goal 1 which is to “End poverty everywhere.”
It is indisputable that nutrition provides a vital foundation for human development and is central to meeting one’s full potential. Nutrition is also important from an economic point of view. Hunger and under-nutrition weaken the mental and physical development of children and adolescents. This in turn lowers the work capacity and income potential of adults and leads to huge social and economic costs. According to estimates by a 2013 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report, hunger and under-nutrition cost the global economy an estimated 2-3 percent of global gross domestic product, equivalent to $1.4-2.1 trillion per year.
The private sector is a key actor in providing nutrition from investing in agriculture; to improving the social, economic and environmental practices in farming and the supply chain; to mobilizing, innovating, and finally delivering agricultural products and food.
So what is the private sector doing on nutrition? For starters, the private sector is a key actor in providing nutrition from investing in agriculture; to improving the social, economic and environmental practices in farming and the supply chain; to mobilizing, innovating, and finally delivering agricultural products and food. As an employer, the private sector also has a vital role in increasing the livelihoods of society as a way to address poverty, malnutrition and under-nutrition. But that’s not the whole picture. It’s far from it and more can be done. One stakeholder alone can’t solve complex nutrition challenges.
The importance of good governance policies and regulations that support private sector involvement in agriculture should not be underestimated. Access to finance and empowering women is also crucial for improving nutrition around the world. Women are often the family’s primary caretakers and they tend to invest in their children’s health. It’s therefore important for governments to promote policies that help women become farmers, traders and entrepreneurs. Promoting trade and investment in agriculture is also crucial for combating global hunger. There is significant evidence from UN reports that demonstrate increased trade, particularly in the agriculture and food industry, raises the standard of living in developing countries and improves the performance of national economies, all of which are necessary for healthy societies.
Additionally, multi-stakeholder partnerships should be encouraged. More and more of these types of approaches are widely recognized as necessary to increasing the scope of financial and human resources in order to tackle nutritional challenges on a large scale. The private sector often partners with governments and researchers to innovate and create new tools for farmers that improve nutrition. It is essential for all stakeholders to work together and develop a global food system that improves people’s nutrition in a sustainable way. We are committed to public-private partnerships that support nutrition strategies and to preserving natural resources to continue to grow food which is necessary for nutrition.