Food for Thought: Incorporating Nutrition

January 12, 2015


Preeti Kudesia, Senior Health Specialist in the Bank’s Nepal office asks a question of Yuden Dorji of Tarayana Foundation (Bhutan) who is preparing buckwheat and vegetable pancakes, watched by Bina Pradhan, Federation of Business and Professional Women (Nepal); RV Bhavani, Programme Manager, LANSA, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation; Kunda Ng’andwe, Senior Rural Development Specialist (Washington); Ashi Kohli Kathuria, Senior Nutrition Specialist (New Delhi); Manav Bhattarai, Health Specialist (Nepal); and Dr. Shamim Imam, Director of Capacity Building, Manusher Jonno.

On October 29-31, 2014, the World Bank hosted a knowledge sharing and learning event that brought together the South Asia’s Food and Nutrition & Security Initiative (SAFANSI) and the Business, Enterprise, and Employment Support for Women in South Asia (GFA) to discuss Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) and to learn about some social enterprises run by women that are promoting FNS.  The 3-day event in New Delhi started by exploring activities starting from national dialogue, to integrating nutrition in non-nutrition-focused projects, to developing tools for practitioners, to measuring nutritional status and program impact for better decision making. 

Since its inception in 2010, SAFANSI has financed close to 50 grants for advocacy, analysis, and capacity development on FNS.  In that time, SAFANSI teams have worked from the national to the community level; examined the issue of women’s agency; started assessing the impact of investments and conditional cash transfer programs; developed tools for practitioners; promoted fisheries for nutrition, and much more.  This workshop was one attempt to bring together the SAFANSI teams to discuss their work, identify areas of convergence and divergence, and see what questions should be answered in the upcoming SAFANSI phase 2. 

The nutrition team of Nepal --- Bert Voetberg, Preeti Kudesia, and Manav Bhattarai --- opened the event by showcasing their work under the SUNITA window of SAFANSI.  The team supported the secretariat in the National Planning Commission to coordinate all ministries contribution to nutrition, helped local governments and communities in multi-sectoral nutrition programs, reviewed the infant and young child feeding (IYCF) program, created detailed information on malnutrition at the district and sub-district levels, supported community-based behavior change for nutrition improvement, and community capacity building for improved nutrition using a rapid results approach.  Through a series of grants, the Nepal program created an integrated treatment to malnutrition from the national to the community level.  


Ashi Kohli Kathuria and Seenithamby Manoharan described the adventures, trials, and tribulations of integrating nutrition into other sectoral programs. In Bihar, India, Ashi is working with 3 diverse projects at various stages of implementation.  One of the issues discussed by attendees was the challenge of getting nutrition into the results framework and at what level if the project is not focused on nutrition --- after all, we do what we measure.  Mano described the political economy of bringing together upwards of 8 different stakeholder groups as a multi-sector village nutrition team.  This segued perfectly into Ramesh Govindaraj’s presentation on the SAFANSI-funded political economy analysis tool. 

Ashi Kohli-Kathuria later presented the work on IYCF in India with the Breastfeeding Promotion Network, which financed a series of international and national workshops, developed report cards for each South Asian country based on their policies and programs, and developed the IYCF Financial Planning Tool to estimate the cost of scaling up. 

Focusing on the community level, the group heard from Biju Rao and his Social Observatory team on their work to integrate community monitoring with ICT for real time monitoring and decision support systems to track nutrition outcomes among other critical factors for poverty reduction.

Members of the BEES Network also received a SAFANSI grant to look at women’s roles in food security at the community level.  Their work in Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka identified several knowledge gaps, production and consumption gaps, and the prevalence of some traditions that undermine nutrition.  They also identified community managed and enterprise approaches to addressing the nutrition problem.  The workshop put a spotlight on the one-dish meal initiative, or Sanjeevi, a community approach that includes a social enterprise developed by Viluthu in Sri Lanka that prepares and sells nutritionally balanced and affordable meals drawing from local agricultural resources.  The meals are sold in kiosks largely operated by war widows, the most vulnerable group identified in their gap analysis.  During the workshop, the participants were treated to a series of cooking demonstrations featuring one-dish meals from several South Asia countries, which was kicked off by Onno Ruhl, Country Director for India.  

The concept of one-dish meals is certainly not a panacea for household malnutrition, but it did stimulate conversation about food and how we pursue dietary diversity, or not, in our daily meals.  In the rest of the workshop the BEES Network examined the potential for enterprise approaches (particular women-led enterprises) to food and nutrition security.  Members from Afghanistan, Nepal, India, and Bangladesh added their experience with food-based enterprises including dairy, food distribution, nutraceuticals, seed production, and poultry, among others. 

Bringing two disparate networks of teams together led to increased understanding of what we’ve learned, what more we need to learn, and how we can learn from each other.  For more information, contact Melissa Williams, Gitanjali Chaturvedi, and Jamie Greenawalt.