Advancing food systems transformation in Viet Nam

Sustainable Healthy Diets provided technical assistance to partners shaping the national food systems transformation agenda in Viet Nam.

The Government of Viet Nam approved a new National Action Plan for Transparent, Responsible, and Sustainable Food Systems Transformation (2022–2030) in April 2023. This new direction provided a window of opportunity for Sustainable Healthy Diets to provide evidence-based resources and capacity sharing models to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and other national partners in their efforts to anchor sustainable healthy diets as a key outcome of the plan’s implementation, alongside economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability.

The Government of Viet Nam views transforming food systems as the most principal and important task in ensuring national food and nutrition security. At the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit, the President of Viet Nam committed to transform and develop the country’s food system to be more transparent, responsible, and sustainable, meeting food security and nutrition requirements for both domestic and export markets.

One of the first steps in the government’s new strategy was the National Action Plan for Transparent, Responsible, and Sustainable Food Systems Transformation (2022–2030), (FST-NAP), which was approved by the Prime Minister in April 2023. The development of the FST-NAP was the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and with its approval, MARD has become the lead government agency in its implementation.

It is in this policy environment that national partners supporting MARD, like the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS) and the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD), invited Sustainable Healthy Diets to participate in this collaborative process. This enabled the Initiative to share evidence-based resources and participate in policy dialogues to anchor sustainable healthy diets as a key outcome of the plan’s implementation, alongside economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability.

The Prime Minister’s approval of the FST-NAP was announced at the 4th Global Conference of the Sustainable Food Systems Program, which took place from April 24–27, 2023, in Hanoi. CGIAR researchers played an important role in advocating for the global conference to be held in Viet Nam. By hosting the event, Viet Nam was able to showcase their ongoing work on food systems transformation, positioning them as a global thought leader. It also helped build momentum to finalize the approval of the FST-NAP.

Since then, MARD recognized that establishing formal structures and governance would be critical to implementing the FST-NAP. The idea for a Food Systems Partnership that will enhance collaboration among and across relevant Ministries, sectors, and partners was born. Through five technical working groups, the Partnership will help to develop mechanisms for subnational levels of government to implement different aspects of the FST-NAP. MARD invited the Initiative’s Country Coordinator to join the group designing the concept for the country’s Food Systems Partnership and how it will operate. The group’s task will be completed in 2024 and the Food Systems Partnership and its five technical working groups will become fully operational.

Analyzing existing regulatory frameworks is a crucial part of the next steps of implementation. At the request of IPSARD, Initiative researchers contributed to a policy landscape analysis that examined whether the country’s existing food environment policies are conducive to achieving sustainable, resilient, healthy, and inclusive food systems. By identifying gaps in existing policies and providing evidence-based recommendations, the Initiative supports Viet Nam’s government in developing and restructuring current and future food systems targets to improve diets, for example.

The food systems concept and what food systems transformation means is not well-understood across Viet Nam. The lack of understanding can hamper effective implementation. After completing the e-course on Food Systems Governance, national partners suggested that Sustainable Healthy Diets work with them to develop a training of trainers (ToT) program on food systems to build capacity and collaboration to implement the FST-NAP. By the end of 2023, experts from VAAS, IPSARD, the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), and Sustainable Healthy Diets co-designed and launched the ToT program and the first set of twenty trainers received their certificate and begin to to cascade the training to the next level of trainers.

The concept of healthy food and diets is very new. It did not exist in the relevant policies in Viet Nam before. We only learnt this though the policy dialogues on food systems by Sustainable Healthy Diets. Now, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development confirms that agriculture also has to respond to diets and healthy foods and it’s not just the role of the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Dao The Anh, Vice-President of Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences

Header photo: Woman calculating figures at Long Bien Market, Hanoi. UN Women Asia and the Pacific.

Filters

Reset