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Let’s Act Together Now!

  |   Engaging Multiple Stakeholders, SUN in Practice

Benin has institutionalized MSPs for nutrition with a Presidential Decree.

Jean Cokou Tossa, President of the National Council of Food and Nutrition and SUN Governement Focal Point describes how multi-stakeholder action works at national and community level…

“We call upon all States, organizations regional and international civil society, including NGOs, for a strong mobilization against under-nutrition in Benin and Africa…”

Declaration of Cotonou

The power of bringing together multiple actors to tackle malnutrition in Benin was highlighted in February 2013, during an event to draw attention to the importance of nutrition for health and development. The event was jointly organised by the Government of Benin (National Council of Food and Nutrition), civil society (CARE International) and the United Nations (UNICEF Benin). Participants included health and agriculture ministries, the Office of the President, UN agencies, representatives from civil society, foundations, donors and the media. Helene Gayle, President and Chief Executive Officer of CARE USA and SUN Movement Lead Group Member, presented the Declaration of Cotonou calling on all stakeholders to take action and ensure accountability for progress on nutrition with the catch phrase ‘Agissons Tous Ensemble Maintenant!’ ‘Let’s Act Together Now!’ The event in February 2013 is testament to government efforts in Benin to build a truly multi-stakeholder approach to improving nutrition.

Institutionalising a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder platform for nutrition

The government of Benin established by Decree 245 in June 2009, the National Council of Food and Nutrition
CAN). It is a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder platform of 17 members under the authority of the President and includes representatives from: the ministries of agriculture, health, social protection, development, finance, de-centralization, trade, the National Association of Communes in Benin, the Association of Food Manufacturers, training and research institutions for food and nutrition, civil society (consumer associations and non-governmental organisations specializing in nutrition), the National Chamber of Agriculture and professional agricultural organisations.

CAN is an inclusive platform, open to any new stakeholder who is concerned with, or whose activities are relevant to food and nutrition. CAN provides synergy of actions aimed at improving the nutritional status of vulnerable groups (children under five years, adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women) and is responsible for:

  • developing the National Policy on Food and Nutrition
  • ensuring implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the National Action Plan for Food and Nutrition
  • coordinating actions relating to food and nutrition.

The responsibilities, organization and functions of CAN were set out in a reference document linked to Decree 245 in which the duties of ministerial departments in agriculture, health and social protection are outlined. Other ministerial departments of trade and industry, finance, development and local government provide support through developing regulation, and mobilizing resources for nutrition.

The appointment of a Permanent Secretary and recruitment of staff in Mach 2013 has strengthened CAN. Plenary meetings are held twice a year, in addition to external meetings of technical working groups.

Mobilising grandmothers through multi-stakeholder efforts

The Community Nutrition Education Project is an innovative project and part of the Strategic Development Plan for Food and Nutrition established by the Government of Benin in 2007. In ten communes where chronic malnutrition rates are particularly high, grandmothers have been marshaled to keep a watchful eye on the health of young children and to educate the whole village about the importance of proper nutrition. Launched in January 2012, the initiative is a multi-stakeholder endeavour. It falls under the broader strategy of the government with World Bank support and financed by the Japan Social Development Fund. The project is implemented by local civil society groups under the aegis of Plan Bénin, an international non-governmental organisation. A total of 12,607 grandmothers have received training in the health and well-being of pregnant women and young children. Their mission is to convince the entire village of the need to adopt sound nutritional practices. The project outreach is not limited to grandmothers—17,823 mothers received training on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. The project has restored the nutritional health of 5,485 children between 0 and 59 months plagued with moderate malnutrition and 222 additional children suffering from acute malnutrition.
Source: In Benin, Grandmothers Lead the Fight against Malnutrition World Bank. October 2013

Complementary platforms

In addition to CAN, there are active inter-ministerial sub-committees. One of these is the Benin Food Fortification Commission, which works with the private sector on salt iodization, oil and flour mills (for fortification of oil with vitamin A and wheat flour with iron, zinc, and B vitamins).

A separate platform for technical and financial partners has been established that brings together the World Bank, United Nations (UN) system agencies (UNICEF, FAO, WFP, WHO, UNDP, UNFPA), bilateral and multilateral development partners and nongovernmental organisations. UNICEF was selected to lead this platform in 2012 and 2013.

Working in the communes

Multi-stakeholder platforms have been created in the ten communes (out of a total of 77 communes) where the Community Nutrition Education Project is being implemented. Coordinated by the Municipal Mayor, they are consultative entities giving guidance to the surveillance committees monitoring food and nutrition actions in 160 villages. These platforms have been formalized and bring together public and non-public service programmes in agriculture, health and social protection, operating in each commune.

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Achievements and challenges

The main achievements of CAN have been:

  • tracking the actions of the Community Nutrition Education Project
  • inclusion of a specific budget line for nutrition in the national budget since 2012
  • adoption of Decree 245 by the Council of Ministers to establish CAN
  • participation by Benin in several international meetings giving more visibility to the issue of food security and nutrition.

Focus areas for the future include: mobilization of resources for implementation of the Food and Nutrition
Results-Based Programme (PANAR) valued at US $ 135 million over 4 years; advocacy with the public and decision-makers to ensure a critical mass of attention for addressing malnutrition through behaviour change;
establishment of an information and surveillance system that is unique and multi-sectoral (at central and
local level); the prevention and, where appropriate, the management of conflicts between actors in order to promote synergy in nutrition interventions.

Key Lessons

  • The personal commitment and team spirit of members of MSPs who come from diverse backgrounds, is critical for success.
  • The creation of a platform of technical and financial partners to work in harmony and synergy with the MSP is beneficial.
  • Though multi-stakeholder support, communities can be successfully mobilized to protect and improve nutrition.

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