Local value chains path way to food security

Originally published by Pascal Corbe, Global Donor Platform Secretariat

Interview with Marie Ruel, Director Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division at IFPRI

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Marie Ruel (IFPRI) believes in empowering women in local value chains for better nutrition.

Local value chains are a leverage point for improving micronutrient-rich food supply, access, and intake – they are key to healthy diets in areas threatened by food insecurity. However, more research is needed to identify policies and mechanisms that strengthen local value chains. In this in-depth interview with the Global Donor Platform, the director of the Poverty, Health and Nutrition division at IFPRI, Marie Ruel, critically reflects on the state of research around some of the food-based approaches that can be used to improve micronutrient status in the developing world. She also notes that a key pathway by which agricultural value chains can enhance nutrition is the empowerment of women, especially in countries where gender inequality persists.

Marie argues that improvements in women’s health, social status and decision-making power are a major step towards providing better nutrition for vulnerable people – such as children and the poor. “All of these factors are very important intermediary pathways by which agriculture can improve nutrition,” she notes. Marie highlights another recommendation that she made at the Micronutrients Forum Global Conference 2014: “The first intervention that a country should implement in order to improve the micronutrient status of  its population is to work on the food system.” Instead of only focusing on the quantity of food that is supplied, countries should consider nutritional quality as well as equity in access to nutritious food.

Marie also tackles the tough question of whether hard-earned gains in income and nutrition for the poor are too easily relinquished to the marketing machinery of unhealthy food, trapping uninformed people in a path from undernutrition to obesity. Supporting consumer awareness programs and protective legislation could be part of a new donor agenda for fighting malnutrition. Yet, there is still a considerable knowledge gap regarding the large-scale impact of communication programs that support healthy food choices.