Chicago Council Symposium: Advancing Food and Nutrition Security. Notes on the “Improving Nutrition” Panel

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ annual symposium, Advancing Food and Nutrition Security at the 2012 G8 Summit, is underway this morning. Tune in to the livestream here and follow the discussion on Twitter with @globalagdev #globalag

President Obama speaking at the Chicago Council's annual Symposium.

Opening remarks were given by Mike Froman, Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama and Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs. Food security will be the sole focus of the G8′s session on development this weekend, as leaders review progress made since the 2009 launch of the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative. Froman emphasized President Obama’s commitment to development—not just assistance—saying that agricultural development is up 8 times the global average where the L’Aquila Initiative has been working. He closed by saying that government assistance alone is not sufficient, and it will require commitment from the private sector, NGOs, and private citizens.

The first panel, Healthy Agriculture: Improving nutrition works for economies and communities, explored the challenge of how nutrition will be incorporated into the agenda of food security. Beverly Oda, of the Canadian International Development Agency, declared that we are in a critical moment and incorporation of nutrition and food security. We need to make sure that all programs integrate nutrition and no longer just focus on food and calories.

Investing in nutrition and food quality provides a return on investment of $138 for every $1 invested and enables a growing youth population to maximize their potential. Tom Arnold, chief executive of Concern Worldwide, reiterated the importance of nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life and the ability to prevent stunted growth. Projects such as the RAIN project in Zambia, which grows different crop mixes for more nutritious food, integration of health and nutrition efforts, and beginning to engage at the communication level with women’s groups.

Educating women was also stressed during the panel. UN World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said if we provide women with education, access to seeds, tools, credits; communities will be better feed and children will be better educated.

The private sector has the opportunity to provide knowledge, experience, and tools for shareholder value and public value. Cousin called on the private sector to recognize that African agriculture is not a quarterly investment, not investment that will show return in the annual report–but that investment is for the long term and to build sustainable opportunities. Government’s need to open up policy space in order to open up things for the private sector.

To view the livestream of the symposium, click here. Follow Nourishing the Planet’s twitter feed documenting the symposium @NourishPlanet.

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