By Katrin Glatzel
Described as “opinionated” and “feisty”, by Sir John Beddington, the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition was launched at the end of October. Hosted by Professor Jeff Waage’s secretariat at the London International Development Centre (LIDC), the Panel includes several high-ranking members from governments, international organisations and academia.
At this first meeting, former President of Ghana John Kufuor was joined by Rhoda Peace Tumusiime (African Union), Jane Karuku (AGRA), Emmy Simmons (The Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa) and John Beddington (Oxford University). The Panel, funded by DFID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was created in June 2013 during the G8 and the first working meeting of the Panel was followed by its official launch on 29th October.
The purpose of the Panel is to provide global research and policy leadership to maximise the contribution of agriculture and food systems to improve nutrition and health outcomes. The members outlined their work priorities and set out the Panel’s ambition to exert influence on the 2014 Congress of the UN standing committee on nutrition (UNSCN), the 2014 Year of Agriculture (declared by the African Union) and the post-2015 agenda and implementation process to embed nutrition.
The role of women and children was particularly highlighted in passionate keynote speeches by Jane Karuku and Rhoda Peace Tumusiime. It is an important area to consider. The Lancet series published a study in June this year, reaffirming that reducing under-nutrition will require substantial additional benefits arising from “nutrition sensitive” interventions, including agricultural interventions. The study furthermore underlined that for maternal health and healthy fetal growth and development, nutrition and agricultural interventions are crucial, which eventually will contribute to overall development progress. The USD 9.6bn funding gap for nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programmes has yet to be closed and the Panel can play a role in ensuring that the post-2015 sustainable development agenda will address malnutrition as a priority.
The LIDC has set out the Panel’s aims and objectives as to review any existing and new evidence and to present the findings in a clear and accessible manner through reports and communications to the target audiences. The Panel also aims to identify priority areas where there is reasonable evidence of benefit and to provide high-level leadership to support agricultural and nutrition policy development in these areas.
The Global Panel therefore presents an opportunity to translate science and research into policies; the complexity of the matter was at times reflected by a sense of ‘disorientation’, yet the enthusiasm and excitement felt at the launch event last week gives reason for optimism that the Panel will in fact translate its ambition, objectives and expertise in the area of nutrition and agriculture into tangible outputs for policy-makers. In Jane Karuku’s words: “we haven’t seen agriculture so widely discussed as in the past two years; the opportunity to act is now”.
The full Panel members list is:
- Akinwumi Adesina, Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria
- Sir John Beddington CMG FRS (Co-Chair), former UK Government Chief Scientific Advisor, Co-Chair
- José Graziano da Silva, Director General, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
- Mahabub Hossain, Executive Director, BRAC
- Jane Karuku, President, AGRA
- John Kufuor (Co-Chair), former President of Ghana, Co-Chair
- Rachel Kyte, Vice President for the Sustainable Development Network, World Bank; and Chair of CGIAR Fund Council
- Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF
- Maurício Antônio Lopes, President, Embrapa
- K. Srinath Reddy, President, Public Health Foundation of India
- Emmy Simmons, Board Member, Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa/AGree
- Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission