Reducing malnutrition is a major challenge in Asia, especially where low-income small-scale households in developing countries are concerned. About 17 million stunted children live in Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea, with prevalence exceeding 20 percent in each country. Several smaller countries have some of the world’s highest stunting rates among children under five, including 58 percent in Timor-Leste, 44 percent in Lao PDR and 41 percent in Cambodia.
Stunting on such a large scale poses a significant threat to East Asia’s children, affecting brain development and leading to lower physical and mental capabilities. In fact, stunting is the leading cause of child mortality worldwide, accounting for 35 percent of all child deaths.
People with childhood stunting tend to have learning challenges. As a result, they are less prepared when they enter the job market and tend to earn lower wages than those without childhood stunting. Their lifetime earnings are estimated to be 10 percent less than their counterparts.
The Regional Technical Cooperation Program on Creating Enabling Environments for Nutrition-Sensitive Food and Agriculture to Address Malnutrition is addressing these challenges. The regional inception workshop on the program, organized by FAO and ICARDA was held in Bangkok on 30 March 2017.
The governments of Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal and Cambodia have made strong commitments on Zero Hunger, and formulated a series of national strategies and policies on agriculture and health policies. However, it remains unclear whether policy along the food value chains are coordinated and conducive to nutrition-sensitive outcomes.
The project aims at reviewing national policy frameworks and fostering enabling policy environments for production diversification and dietary diversity, especially tapping the potential of highly nutritious and climate-sensitive underutilized crops to address malnutrition in selected countries. Within the agricultural diversification and sustainable intensification strategy, shaping a climate-smart food system, such as Future Smart Food (FSF) becomes essential, as it represents a holistic and cost-effective intervention to address the dual challenge of malnutrition and climate change.
The workshop participants agreed to expand the network on FSF to facilitate exchange and application of evidence-based knowledge, policy support, technology, genetic enhancement and case study as well as mobilize additional funding to scale up FSF promotion in target countries.
Conducting GIS analysis using remote-sensing tools to map different farm typologies, energy, water, irrigation, transportation in various agro-ecological zones, including rice fallow areas, will allow mapping for high-potential FSF.
Mainstreaming FSF into national policies and programs, by means of appropriate incentives, and procurement of FSF for school meal programs to enhance national consumption and local production, will be part of the FSF institutional framework development.