Collaborative Capacity Building in South Asia and Southern Africa
As part of its commitment to build human and institutional capacity in South Asia and Southern Africa, the Feed the Future Food Systems for Nutrition Innovation Lab (FSN-IL) traveled to Nepal and Malawi in June 2023 to support two conferences: first, the 9th National Conference on Food Science and Technology (9th FCON) in Nepal and then the 8th Annual Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy Week (ANH 2023) in Malawi. Both conferences brought together researchers, policymakers, students and other stakeholders in food systems and health, and served as fora for interdisciplinary exchange among professionals.
Support for conferences entails more than funding; it also involves technical support and sharing expertise. With over a decade of work through earlier USAID grants (the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition: 2010-2021), the FSN-IL team has gained extensive experience conducting in-country symposia and conferences and understands the logistical skills and content organization required.
9th National Conference on Food Science and Technology
In preparation for the 9th FCON in Nepal, FSN-IL worked closely with the Nepal Food Scientists and Technologists Association (NEFOSTA) and the rest of the organizational committee in the months leading up to the conference to develop communication materials, help craft the program agenda and provide specialized technical and logistical support.
More than 300 attendees participated in the 9th FCON, held on June 12-13 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Organizers of this conference included both actors from the public and private sector, a novel approach taken by FSN-IL to help build a collaborative effort to transform the food systems agenda in Nepal. The full list of co-organizers included:
- Government of Nepal’s Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC).
- FSN-IL, Tufts University.
- Baliyo Nepal Nutrition Initiative (BNNI).
- Central Campus of Technology (CCT).
- SUN Business Network (SBN).
Over two days, the conference hosted seven technical sessions, three extensive panel sessions, and 22 poster presentations held under five critical and timely thematic areas of food safety and governance, nutrition and nutrient-dense foods, drivers of food systems innovations, drivers of food systems, science and technology, and food loss and waste/byproduct utilization. The discussions and insights generated from these sessions led to a set of resolutions being drafted in the final session of the conference.
“Overall, the 9th FCON was a huge success based on the diverse array of sessions, which led to the development of groundbreaking resolutions addressing the evolving needs of the entire food value chain to transform into an equitable, resilient and sustainable food system in Nepal,” says Robin Shrestha, research and capacity building manager of FSN-IL.
These resolutions will be integrated to NEFOSTA’s strategic plans and will also serve as a review document for the Government of Nepal as they develop their strategic planning and actions around food systems transformation.
8th Annual Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy Week
In Malawi, FSN-IL provided a different type of support for ANH 2023 by sponsoring 11 travel fellowships for young researchers from Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Kenya to feature their work through oral and poster presentations. The lab also helped over 30 Malawian students from all over the country attend ANH 2023.
“I am very thankful for the financial support given that helped me to attend the 2023 ANH Academy Week conference and present my research work (poster) … truly speaking, I may not have attended the meeting without the financial support given. By participating in the training, I was able to share ideas with so many researchers having common interest coming from various backgrounds from almost all over corners of our planet,” said a recipient of the FSN-IL bursary fellowship.
Additionally, FSN-IL’s director and associate director, Patrick Webb and Shibani Ghosh, participated at ANH 2023, where they delivered both a learning lab and plenary session alongside guest speakers and USAID colleagues. Recordings can be found below:
- Learning Lab: Reducing Food Loss and Waste in Nutrient-Dense Value Chains | June 26, 2023, in Lilongwe, Malawi.
- Plenary Session: Scaling Post-Farmgate Innovations to Support Healthy Diets | June 29, 2023, in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Learning lab participants actively engaged in discussions around the similarities and differences in food loss and waste between high-income countries and low- and middle-income countries and discussed the triple win benefits of addressing food loss and waste for nutrition, climate and economic development. Panelists in the plenary session discussed concepts of innovation within the post-farm gate space, presented research examining the potential for scaling up of innovations across the value chain with a focus on nutrient-dense foods and identified priority information needs and ways forward.
The session helped generate an understanding of the research and policy needs to support innovation in food value chains for healthy diets and a healthy planet with a focus on South Asia and Southern Africa. Approximately 300 participants attended the plenary and 40 attended the learning lab.
“Our plenary and learning lab sessions in the ANH were critical in highlighting the need for research in understanding the barriers and facilitators of scaling of post-farm gate innovations and the importance of advocating for policy action to support reduction in food loss and waste and ensuring food safety and nutrition through the food value chain,” says Shibani Ghosh, associate director of FSN-IL