Navigating trade-offs towards healthier diets: SHiFT researchers host workshop in Viet Nam

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Researchers from the CGIAR Research Initiative on Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation (SHiFT) organized a workshop in Hanoi, Viet Nam, on November 15, 2023, to engage key players in the Vietnamese food system with the work of SHiFT Work Package 4 on Trade-Off Scenario Analysis. The workshop was organized by Tuyen Huynh and Thanh Thi Duong from the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, Pham Tho from the Center for Agrarian Systems Research and Development (CASRAD) ,and Michiel van Dijk, Just Dengerink, Marcos Dominguez and Sophie Galema from Wageningen University & Research (WUR).

The workshop focused on introducing SHIFT’s research approach to stakeholders and collecting their feedback on preliminary results from the trade-off modelling. During the workshop, SHiFT researchers received useful feedback on the indicators that could be included in the trade-off analysis that the research team is developing. Workshop participants had productive discussions on how the trade-off analysis could be best tailored to support the transition towards healthier diets in Viet Nam.

A highlight of the workshop was a presentation by Dr. Dao The Anh, Vice-President of the Vietnamese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS) on challenges and opportunities for Viet Nam’s food systems transformation towards sustainable healthy diets. In his presentation, he indicated the transformative potential of nutrition-sensitive agriculture, agro-ecology and circular economy approaches. Dr. Truong Tuyet Mai from the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) also provided some high-level remarks on the different policy options for shaping the transformation towards sustainable and healthy diets.

Through interactive sessions, workshop participants discussed key trends in the Viet Nam food system and their implications for the future. In groups, they identified and prioritized trade-offs between different food system outcomes. Examples of trade-offs prioritized by several groups were agro-chemical use versus water quality and increasing income versus reducing obesity  The preliminary results showed the implications of four different diet scenarios (business as usual, a traditional diet, dietary guidelines and the planetary health diet promoted by the EAT-Lancet Commission) for different food system indicators related to health, food security, economy, inclusivity and environment. These results showed clear trade-offs of pursuing these different diets. While food affordability and wages increase in most scenarios, negative impacts of input use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions also increase in some of those.

Participants provided detailed feedback on the Work Package 4 research approach and preliminary results, pointing to the importance of addressing regional differences in diets and suggesting to link the modelling results with ongoing policy processes on food systems transformation, such as the National Action Plan for Transparent, Responsible, and Sustainable Food Systems Transformation. The feedback shared by stakeholders in this workshop is feeding into the further development of the diet scenarios and trade-off analysis. The next iteration of results will be shared during a virtual meeting with technical experts in April/May of 2024. A face-to-face workshop will be organized in September to present the results to a wider group of stakeholders and discuss policy implications for navigating food system trade-offs.

The International Food Policy Research Institute and the Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT lead SHiFT in close collaboration with Wageningen University and Research and with contributions from the International Potato Center. SHiFT combines high-quality nutritional and social science research capacity with development partnerships to generate innovative, robust solutions that contribute to healthier, more sustainable dietary choices and consumption of sustainable healthy diets. It builds on CGIAR’s unparalleled track record of agricultural research for development, including ten years of work on food systems and nutrition under the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). Under Work Package 4 of SHIFT, researchers from WUR, IFPRI, and the Alliance are working together with national partners and experts to develop, test and apply decision-support tools for trade-off analyses, enabling stakeholders to better navigate the potential trade-offs that are expected to emerge from the food systems transformation agenda.

This news item was written by Just Dengerink, Food System Advisor at the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation.

Header image: Key food system stakeholders meet in Hanoi, Viet Nam to discuss preliminary results from SHiFT Work Package 4 on Trade-off Scenario Analysis on November 15, 2023. Photo provided by Thanh Thi Duong/Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT.

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