SHiFT and MALICA co-host meeting to discuss potential avenues for improving diets in Viet Nam

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In November 2023, the Market and Agriculture Linkages for Cities in Asia (MALICA) platform convened its stakeholders for a consultative meeting in Hanoi to hear and discuss preliminary results from the CGIAR Research Initiative on Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation (SHiFT)’s research in Viet Nam.

MALICA is a collaborative platform founded by the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and national agricultural research institutes in the early 2000s. Today, its 10 partners include CIRAD, the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD), CGIAR Centers, and national agricultural research institutes and universities from Viet Nam and Lao PDR, including the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Sciences (VAAS) and the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD). MALICA partners with SHiFT in Viet Nam to foster a multistakeholder dialogue on food systems at the national level. This was their first joint consultation.

At the meeting, SHiFT researchers and partners shared evidence from their work in Viet Nam and information on concrete actions to transform the country’s food systems. The event also aimed to help stakeholders identify priority areas for intervention, foster discussion of the testing and evaluation of interventions, and raise awareness of the need for a multidimensional approach to food systems transformation. The meeting goals were well-aligned with the objectives of Viet Nam’s recently approved National Action Plan for Transparent, Responsible, and Sustainable Food Systems Transformation (2022–2030), also known as the SFS National Action Plan.

After an introductory session highlighting the activities and achievements of SHiFT and MALICA, as well as an overview of Viet Nam’s SFS National Action Plan, SHiFT researchers presented preliminary findings from their work. Studies from Work Package 1 focused on adolescents, examining the quality of their diets, what they eat away from home, and what influences their choices. Research from Work Package 2 aimed to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing micro, small, and medium size food outlets and suppliers that provide nutritious foods.

The results from WPs 1 and 2 were based on an analysis of a large, complex household survey of adolescents and their mothers and a survey of food outlets conducted in low- and middle-income communes in three districts in Viet Nam (December 2022—June 2023). The research team includes SHiFT researchers working closely with researchers from CIRAD, IRD, and the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).

Work on the policy landscape from Work Package 3 explored whether the country’s regulations and policy actions are supporting the adoption of healthy diets. The presentation described results from a joint study conducted by SHiFT and the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD).

Researchers from the MALICA platform also presented potential policy solutions and interventions related to a range of topics spanning the entire food chain, from food production to distribution and consumption. These included food safety in slaughterhouses, the contribution of agroecology to food systems transformation, and taxation of sugar-sweetened beverages.

The final section of the meeting included a discussion of potential solutions and “quick wins” to improve diets. The discussion focused on policies that many participants agreed could help improve consumer choices, including nutrition labeling in general, and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages. Methods of educating consumers about diets—through schools, recipes, and food movements—were also discussed. These inputs are being taken into account as SHiFT and its national partners discuss ways to pilot interventions in the food system.

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).

Header image: Participants in the November 9 workshop co-hosted by the MALICA platform and SHiFT in Hanoi, Viet Nam, pose for a group photograph. Photo provided by Thanh Thi Duong, Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT.  

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