To share lessons from significant progress in Thailand’s work to eliminate hunger and undernutrition in its country, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Mahidol University recently conducted the South-South Learning Workshop to Accelerate Progress to End Hunger and Nutrition for a range of stakeholders from Africa and Asia, in Bangkok, Thailand.
The event was developed in partnership with Compact2025, the Food Security Portal project, and with support of Nourishing Millions and the Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN). It demonstrated to a group of officials from Senegal, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa, as well as from Compact2025 focal countries Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi and Rwanda, the various initiatives Thailand has taken in the past years to tackle challenges related to food security and nutrition.
In addition to government, the workshop brought together stakeholders from the private sector, academia and civil society, to participate in discussions focused on mobilising communities and fostering collaborations across multiple sectors to engage in large-scale progress in improving nutrition.
The event was opened by Dr Shenggen Fan, IFPRI Director General, and Professor Udom Kachintorn, President of Mahidol University. In his keynote address on Thailand’s Progress in Meeting Food and Nutrition Security Goals, Mahidol University’s Professor Emeritus Kraisid Tontisirin stressed the importance of a balanced nutritional portfolio for effective nutrition interventions, as well as that of a food system that makes variety accessible and affordable.
The workshop focussed on three roundtable discussions: 1. Strategic planning and coordination, 2. Community-led nutrition mobilisation, and 3. Tracking and monitoring progress. All roundtable discussions were summed up with a report on the key findings and insights about gaps between Thai and African facts.
ARoFIIN Secretary Mr Bruno Kistner participated in panel discussion led by Associate Professor Emorn Udomkesmalee, Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University, which focused on accelerating progress in the face of evolving challenges, such as those facing multi-stakeholder engagement efforts.
Other panellists represented Bangladesh-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) BRAC Health, Nutrition and Population Programme; Vietnam’s National Institute of Nutrition (NIN); the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) in Zambia; the Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) in Burkina Faso; and UPL Limited in India. Panellists discussed existing hurdles in partnership creation between the public and private sectors.
The closing panel was led by Mr Teunis van Rheenen, IFPRI Head of Partnerships and Business Development, and focussed on lessons learned that could lead to action and impact. The panel brought together delegates from government, NGO and IGO sectors, including Professor Yuexin Yang, President of the Chinese Nutrition Society (CNS).
One key factor that makes Thailand unique, participants learned, is the tremendous contribution made by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who since 1980 has aimed to improve maternal and child health in the country. Through her leadership and commitment, government- and community-led programmes were carried out with success: stunting rates in Thailand are half that of the rest of the ASEAN region, and Thailand has one of the highest breastfeeding adherences in the world.
In his closing remarks, Dr Fan touched on these five key points:
• The Thailand case was country-driven from the national to community levels, not by donors or international organisations; nutrition efforts must be country-driven
• The importance of research and championing knowledge; government action must be research-based
• Community movement with modern and innovative technologies can improve tracking at all levels
• The private sector looks at the bottom line, but how can it use nutrition improvement efforts as an opportunity to still meet those same business goals?
• Mutual learning by bringing together different countries and stakeholders is critical