Conference on Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture in Mountain Areas

The Second International Conference on Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture in Mountain Areas
Hosted by HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation (henceforward HELVETAS), the Second International Conference on Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture in Mountain Areas took place in Kathmandu on 27-28 February 2018 - bringing together participants from 11 different countries. The co-organizers were IFOAM-Organics International (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement), and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). The event aimed at bringing together various actors involved in nutrition sensitive agriculture (NSA) around the world to discuss on efficient address of diverse needs and creation of an inspiring environment for improved capacity and motivation for implementation of nutrition sensitive agriculture.
The conference highlighted the nutrition sensitive agriculture in mountain areas and brought together the Rural Service Providers’ (RSP) network (that is Mountain Agro-ecosystems Action Network-MAAN) across Nepal, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Ethiopia and Peru as well as India. Around 190 participants from 11 countries took part.
In the first day of the conference, chief guest - Dr. Suroj Pokhrel, Secretary of the Ministry of Agricultural Development -- after ceremonially opening the conference, pointed out at direct effect of malnutrition and food security on marginalized communities in Nepal. He added that nutrition sensitive agriculture is a solution to many local level initiatives like processing, agriculture and tourism. Before that Dr. Bharat Kumar Pokharel, Country Director of HELVETAS Nepal officially welcomed all national and international guests, participants and key note speakers of the event, and opened the first session of the conference on ‘the added value for development’. 
In the first session, key note speakers Dr. Frank Eyhorn, Vice President of IFOAM - Organics International and HELVETAS (Switzerland); Ms. Marlene Heeb, Programme Officer, Global Programme Food Security, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC, Bern); Mr. Harihar Prasad Sharma, Senior Public Health Officer, Child Health Division, Ministry of Health; Mr. Basudev Kafle, Senior Agricultural Economist, Ministry of Agricultural Development; Dr. Thomas Bernet, FiBL Switzerland; Dr. Eklabya Sharma, Deputy General of ICIMOD highlighted the works that are undergoing on nutrition sensitive agriculture and underpinned its importance and relevance in improving nutrition condition in mountain areas. 
Then, Mr. Markus Arbenz, Executive Director of IFOAM - Organics International (Germany) thanked the chief guests and key note speakers, and opened the second session on ‘strategizing nutrition sensitive agriculture’.  
In the second as well as the third session (third session was on ‘scaling up successes: inspirations for implementation’), the national and international key note speakers shared their practices, experiences and learnings about nutrition sensitive agriculture from their home countries, for instance student-targeted nutrition education, home gardening, solar dryers, organic farming etc.
Parallel workshops organized in the afternoon focused on bringing the International Mountain Agro-ecosystems Action Network (MAAN) of rural service providers, about their interventions, micro-intervention implementation in rural communities, and how those messages and stories are harvested at grassroots level and linked with national and international level for policy advocacy. 
The second day of the conference concentrated on sharing knowledge, experience and learning about inclusive business and linking smallholders to markets, and giving sustainability to nutrition sensitive agricultural actions. In the session, experience about livestock based farming system, promoting income and nutrition of rural women via an informal network that is international Mountain Agro-ecosystems Action Network, improvement of soil health and protected cultivation was shared by the service providers from Nepal and India.
In the fishbowl session of the event, former Secretary of the Government of Nepal -- Mr. Aatmaram Pandey emphasized on localization of nutritional agricultural practices to bring a broader impact. Through the conference, many actors involved in the health sector had opened their eyes to the importance of agriculture for improving nutrition and thus health. The participants also noted the need of healthy soil for the good nutrition of rural mountain people.
In the final message of the conference, the Country Director of HELVEAS Nepal -- Dr. Pokharel highlighted on need of brining nutrition into interdisciplinary box since food, nutrition and dietary practice is related among one another. For improving nutrition condition, the actors should move from isolated to collective effort, he emphasized. Dr. Jane Carter, International Programme Advisor of HELVETAS Nepal observed that organic farming is not the only answer to producing healthy food; low input agriculture, using methods such as integrated pest control, also has a role to play. She further empathized the importance of supporting practical work in many different settings – responding to the needs of both women and men, working in rural and urban settings, and tailoring interventions to people with different cultural, social, economic and other backgrounds. 
Concluding the conference, the Executive Director of IFOAM - Organics International, Mr. Markus Arbenz threw light on need of collective effort and collaboration and coordination among concerned actors to improve nutrition situation through agriculture in rural mountain regions. For this purpose, the personal engagement of people is equally significant, he added.
The conference also had a public character and a space for exhibition and poster presentation, networking and knowledge exchange in the field of nutrition sensitive agriculture among the rural service providers. The exhibition featured booths of local nutritious and organic agricultural products, publications, nutrition corner from farmers, allied organizations, NMA countries and rural service providers and MAAN. Exhibition and poster session gave an opportunity to showcase nutrition sensitive messages, and foster cooperation and networking among the participants.