FAO and the Switzerland-based Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) have agreed to join forces to increase the availability and affordability of nutritious food for all in developing countries.

The partnership, which was inked recently, aims to enable inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems, focusing on new approaches which engage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to promote market-based solutions as a key tool for improved nutrition.

FAO and GAIN will also work to make urban food systems more nutrition-sensitive, through support to GAIN’s Urban Governance for Nutrition Programme and FAO’s Urban Food Agenda.

At present, over 50 per cent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and it is expected to rise to 70 per cent by 2050. This creates an enormous challenge to food production and supply.

Food and nutrition security of poor urban populations remains at risk as a consequence of the volatility and rapid increases in food prices, natural disasters and climate change effects.

Referencing the recent General Assembly resolution on Global health and foreign policy: A healthier world through better nutrition, José Graziano da Silva, director general, FAO, called for greater promotion of healthy diets.

“We must focus more attention on the promotion of healthy diets, especially now with the epidemics of obesity and overweight. We know the main causes of hunger and how to defeat it,” he added.

However, Graziano da Silva noted that there was still a need for greater monitoring and regulation in order to make food systems safer and more resilient.

“The private sector has a key role to play here – without them, we cannot move ahead with this agenda,” he added.

“Healthier diets are critical to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and this requires action to enable food systems to deliver more affordable nutritious foods to all,” said Lawrence Haddad, executive director, GAIN.

“FAO is a leader in this effort, and we are delighted to cement our partnership today. We will focus on practical ways we can jointly help businesses and city governments deliver nutritious diets,” he added.

Building resilient food systems for the future by integrating rural and urban areas and strengthening their linkages – with the involvement of all stakeholders – will benefit both smallholder farmers and the urban poor.

Access to healthy diets

Since its launch in 2002, GAIN has worked to keep nutrition on the global agenda. Working in alliances to make food systems more nutrition-sensitive, GAIN provides technical and policy support to key stakeholders across food systems, such as governments, the private sector, farmers and consumers.

GAIN has considerable experience working with the private sector, in particular through its Marketplace for Nutritious Foods programme.

The marketplace functions both as a community of practice and innovation accelerator, linking a network of local entrepreneurs, investors and institutions which work on agriculture and nutrition, and offering participants the chance to receive support for ideas that increase access, affordability and diversity of nutritious foods for vulnerable populations.

The partnership between FAO and GAIN envisaged support for policy at the country level, and increased engagement of the private sector in improving food systems by supporting SMEs in bringing more nutritious foods to market.