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||The study is part of a global effort of FAO/ EU under the FIRST program to assess effectiveness of policies, investments, capacity and mechanisms to implement the Food & Nutrition Security (FNS)-agenda.
The study analysed the health and nutrition situation in Suriname, which is characterised by deficiencies and overnutrition: some 9 % of children under 5 are undernourished, 25% of women suffer from anaemia and 8 % of children have vitamin A deficiency. In addition, a large segment of the population (26%) is classified as obese as a result of overnutrition. This is a increasing problem with ample social affects and mounting costs of medical treatment of NCDs.
Groups that are vulnerable to undernutrition are women and children as well as lower socio-economic segments of the population. The population in the inlands is rather isolated and mainly vulnerable as a result of calamities. A wide range of socio-economic groups are vulnerable for overnutrition with a higher percentage of women. Food contamination, especially from mercury and pesticides, affects all segments of the population.
Underlying determining factors are analysed along the 4 FNS Pillars:
- Availability’ of affordable and healthy food is largely determined by agriculture production as well as by the large segment of imported food. Production for export is done by large-scale enterprises whereas many small, often part-time, producers cater for the domestic market. The sector has inefficiencies along the production chain resulting in higher prices for consumers. Low productivity stems from factors along the production- consumption chain including access to finance, genetic material, excessive use of pesticides, post-harvest losses, inefficiencies in marketing and processing.
- ‘Access’ to food deals with income, social programs and market access. The purchasing power of the population has been reduced in recent years due to a spike in inflation which has come down. Unemployment is moderate (8-19 %) but considered an area of future concern. There is a distinction for FNS between the population in the coastal areas with the market economy and the isolated communities in the inlands depending on own production and gathering.
- ‘Utilization’ deals with choices of the consumption of food and changing ‘lifestyles’ relating to NCDs. Nutrition awareness especially on needs for vulnerable groups is limited. Food safety is important in view of the risks of food contamination as pesticides/herbicides are widely used in Suriname in the agricultural production process.
- ‘Sustainability’ looks at future risks for FNS caused by e.g. climate change with seawater-level rise, economic changes or social developments.
Causes for malnutrition differ for the various groups. Women and children are naturally vulnerable for nutrient deficiencies. Diets need to be tuned to their additional needs. Changes towards sedentary lifestyles and high-energy diets cause over-nutrition affecting a large part of the population.
Major factors leading to malnutrition in Suriname are the following:
1. Low incomes, reducing purchasing power and loosening social structures in urban areas
2. Changes from traditional to modern production systems and calamities affecting food availability in the inlands
3. Lack of knowledge about healthy food and nutritional requirements, especially for infants and women of reproductive age
4. Unhealthy sedentary lifestyles combined with overconsumption via diets with ample sugar and fats
5. Food safety risks due to pesticide, mercury and other contamination
A recurring constraint is the lack of crucial data and information on the FNS situation, policies and ongoing programs. There is no regular stakeholder information exchange or dialogue mechanism. Projects are planned and carried out with a relatively small group of stakeholders. As a result, duplication occurs, and synergies missed. Interaction and dialogue on policy issues or programs in Suriname is mostly carried out in an ad-hoc or project-focused manner and as a result, stakeholder interaction is not sustained. Due to the FIRST Suriname, information accessibility on FNS has improved .
The study dealt with the below questions on the effectiveness of FNS policies, strategies and programs in Suriname and concluded the following:
1. Are policies, strategies and programs effectively targeted to FNS? Since the FNS concept is not yet internalized in Suriname, the policies and other plans don’t have a FNS focus. However, they touch upon elements such as food production, food safety or a concern for the effects of climate change. Targeting of vulnerable groups by social safety nets is limited in the absence of an information system and clear criteria.
2. Are the policies and programs sufficiently forward-looking?
The study found that threats to FNS as climate change and effects of social or economic changes are mentioned but not addressed in the sense that policy options are provided with cost and benefits. Use of strategic planning tools as models, scenario planning supported by GIS is not found.
3. Are implementation mechanism and capacity adequate for FNS?
It was found that there is no regular mechanism to bring stakeholders together in addressing constraints of the FNS agenda. The agricultural sector is only partially organized.
Information sharing was found to be very limited. Till recently there was no systematic access to prevailing policy documents, stakeholders, projects, contact persons etc. The FNS IKM effort started in 2018, trained over 50 focal points of stakeholders in using on-line platforms which substantially increased access to information and dialogue. The IKM Stakeholder group formed a first segment of an FNS implementation mechanism.
4. Are existing FNS policies and programs adequately resourced?
The overall requirement cannot be assessed in the absence of an update FNS Policy Framework and Implementation Plan. Only short-term needs for resources can be assessed. During the study various projects relevant for FNS were identified that were ongoing or starting. The loan- portfolio of the government is substantial. This implies for the short term that implementation of the FNS agenda could go a long way and optimise existing resources when a FNS-perspective and approach is applied. A Professional Unit is essential to catalyse the FNS processes and resources for this need to be identified with priority.
5. What are other factors that may impede realizing FNS-goals?
The study noted concerns about the politicized government apparatus. As a result, capacities needed for effective implementation are not used and collaboration between agencies can be hampered. It has also affected policy continuity which hampers sustainable and effective development.
6. Can the current set of policies and strategy achieve FNS goals?
The study concluded that continuation of efforts started by FIRST in 2017 are critical for any progress with the FNS agenda. In order to ensure systematic engagement and information exchange of stakeholders, the FNS agenda must be elaborated and endorsed at high-level and the starting institutional mechanism sustained. The Professional facilitating Unit is essential and should be sustainably positioned so it is not affected by political swings.
7. Recommendations for priority resource allocation for FNS?
Continuation of the development and internalization of the FNS mechanism in the Suriname system is widely carried as a priority by stakeholders.
Recommendations in order of priority include:
1. Establish a small Professional Unit for facilitation of stakeholder interaction
2. Develop a FNS Policy Framework and Implementation agenda with priorities using a Logframe/ToC approach for wide endorsement and implementation with stakeholders
3. Elaborate the institutional mechanism with a) a stakeholder Group for Oversight/ Management, b) linkage to high-level policymakers and c) Technical Working groups for priority areas of FNS and d) underpinned by an Information & Knowledge Management mechanism.
4. Strengthen programs to enhance political will and support for FNS
5. Harmonize data collection and management with modern tools (GIS, online IKM systems) to underpin targeting, planning, M&E and learning
6. Foster innovations along the production- nutrition chain. This includes agricultural management methods, IPM and building up an expertise and knowledge system for FNS in Suriname; Enhance effectiveness of extension by using modern methods as online platforms and tools as GIS for identification, validation and communication of innovations and best practices; Enhance targeting of safety nett programs.
7. Enhance nutrition education for vulnerable groups and promote healthy lifestyles in view of the size of the problem of NCDs and consequences for society. Focus extra on women as they are more prone to be overweight/ obese.
8. Build-up capacity for strategic planning using ToC/Logframe, scenarios, models and tools as GIS.
The above points 1-3 deserve direct attention. Thereafter a wider and more detailed set of recommendations and activities can be developed, providing a mature framework for coordination and investment.