MAF-SoL hosted a national consultation workshop on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture to discuss what the agricultural sector can do to help tackle malnutrition in Timor-Leste, at the MAF Conference Room, Comoro, last Monday.
The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Mariano Assanami Sabino, officially opened the workshop attended by over 70 representatives from MAF development partners, various ministries, international and national NGOs, and other stakeholders.
Agriculture plays an important role not just in improving food security, but in producing nutritious food that will have a positive impact on people’s health.
The majority of Timor-Leste’s population relies on agriculture for both food and income. However, food production is still low in comparison with other Southeast Asian countries, which has contributed to a high level of chronic and acute malnutrition in children and women.
“A nutrition-sensitive approach to agriculture means making nutritious food more accessible to everyone,”
At the event, the Head of the Nutrition Department at the Ministry of Health, Joao Bosco, highlighted that 58% of children in Timor-Leste suffer from chronic malnutrition with the highest rates occurring in the Bobonaro district.
Nutrition Advisor for SoL and Assistant Professor of Nutrition at Columbia University, New York, Dr Jessica Fanzo, spoke about how these problems could be overcome.
“A nutrition-sensitive approach to agriculture means making nutritious food more accessible to everyone,” she said.
“But this is a multi-sectoral issue, we also have to improve clean water and sanitation to reduce infection and disease, provide good education and employment in the future and increase access to health care.”
SoL’s Informal Seed Advisor, Buddhi Kunwar, explained that a strategy developed by Dr Fanzo would be used to promote nutrition messages and nutrition-sensitive agriculture through SoL’s capacity building and support of Community Seed Producing Groups and Suco Extension Officers.
The Director of the Centre for Globalisation and Sustainable Development, Prof Glen Denning, encouraged Timor-Leste to enter the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement as a further step to counter malnutrition.
The SUN Movement, which currently comprises 30 country members, is a global initiative to unite governments, civil society, businesses and citizens in the effort to end poor nutrition.
AusAID’s Neryl Lewis noted that the agency is funding programs across relevant sectors such as BESIK (water & sanitation), Seeds of Life (agriculture) and UNICEF’s national nutrition survey.
Minister Sabino gave the closing remarks noting that the Government would use the recently established National Food Security and Sovereignty Council, involving 8 ministries and chaired by the MAF, to determine how to address malnutrition and coordinate efforts across various sectors and NGOs.