SHiFT facilitates cross-country knowledge exchange on the implementation of a sustainable food systems agenda

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Members of the Bangladesh National Nutrition Council (BNNC) visited their counterparts in Viet Nam to share experiences on implementing their national food systems transformation agendas. The two-week event was initiated by the Bangladesh National Nutrition Council (BNNC) and organized by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (the Alliance) under the umbrella of the CGIAR Research Initiative on Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation (SHiFT) in Viet Nam.

Dignitaries from BNNC visited Hanoi in two batches from June 11-16 and then from June 19-26, 2023.  The dignitaries met with officials from the Vietnamese National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and the Vietnam Academy of Agriculture Sciences (VAAS) to exchange ideas and lessons learned. The program included meetings, presentations, and site visits including a visit to a smart farm, a farm managed with modern information and communication technologies to maximize the quality and quality of products and optimize the human labor required.

These three government agencies were brought together because of their complementary interests and responsibilities in food systems transformation and coordination of other strategic multi-stakeholder processes related to food systems and nutrition. For example, all three agencies were closely involved in the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) process. The timing of the visit was only a few weeks before numerous national delegations convened in Rome on July 24-26, 2023, for the UNFSS +2 Stocktaking Moment.

There are basic differences between how nutrition and food safety are managed in the two countries. In Viet Nam, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development and the Ministry of Industry and Trade coordinate in state management of food safety. However, in Bangladesh there are specialized management units to address these issues and broader food systems transformation goals. For example, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare manages the National Plan of Action for Nutrition (NPAN-2), the Ministry of Food manages the Country Investment Plan (CIP-3), and the Cabinet provides assistance with transforming social security programs to be more nutrition sensitive. The nutrition and food systems agendas are tackled through various multisectoral platforms aiming to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One take-away from the visit was that communication strategies, media, and transparency were essential for effective food system management in both countries.

The BNNC’s visit was hailed as an important milestone in SHiFT’s goals to strengthen the cooperation between national partners working with the Initiative and to learn from country- and context-specific pathways for food systems transformation toward sustainable healthy diets.

Cross-country knowledge exchanges are one of the ways SHiFT is supporting country-led food systems transformation towards sustainable healthy diets. SHiFT works towards this goal alongside a small group of partners known as Strategic Partners. SHiFT’s Strategic Partners in Vietnam are NIN, VAAS, and the Institute for Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD). In Bangladesh, the partnerships are still in the process of being formalized.

The International Food Policy Research Institute and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT lead SHiFT in close collaboration with Wageningen University & 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).

This News item was authored by the former SHiFT Country Coordinator in Bangladesh, Wajiha Khatun, and edited by Claire Davis from IFPRI.

Header image: Participants in the cross-country visit pose for a photo. From left to right are Ms. Huong Pham, the Alliance; Dr. Pham Thi Hanh Tho, Vice Director of CASRAD under VAAS; Ms. Thanh Duong, the Alliance; Ms. Nasreen Zubaidai, Director of Policy & Planning, BNNC; Dr. Dao The Anh, Vice Director of VAAS; Mr. Md Akhter Imam, Deputy Director Monitoring & Evaluation; Mr. Md Zahangir Alam, Account Officer, MoHFW; Mr. Mohammad Abdul Quader, Librarian; Mr. Mohammad Robiul Islam, Maintenance Engineer, MoHFW; Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy Ha, VAAS. Photo by Trang Do, VAAS.

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