|Essays on Food, Hunger, Nutrition, Primary Health Care and Development (AVIVA, 480 p.)|
|15. Viewpoint: Nutrition Planning - What Relevance to Hunger?|
· Is nutrition planning a technique by or in itself?
· How closely is it related to contingent politics?
· What is 'new' about nutrition planning that has not been tried before as a development strategy?
· What can nutrition planning? really offer?
· Western planning: is it pro status-quo?
Nutrition planning is the latest, western approach to solving the problems of malnutrition. It is a technique, borrowed from systems analysis, mostly of analysis and diagnosis, applied to the nutrition system or food chain, and coupled with a number of procedures helpful in decision making and in the implementation of programmes.
Nutrition planning is a more comprehensive and multisectoral approach to solving malnutrition than any strategy used before. Because of its broadly-based approach it is much closer to a political approach (in the classical sense of the term) to the problems behind malnutrition. Therefore, I see nutrition planning having additional potentialities for change over any of the approaches used before. On the other hand, nutrition planning - as does any form of economic planning - necessarily reflects primarily the objectives of the group in power.
Nutrition planning can be seen as the fusion of at least four activities: analysis, diagnosis, decision making and implementation. The first two activities are the more technical and objective ones, even the tools used in analysis and diagnosis are not value-free. The third and fourth activities are clearly primarily ideological and only secondarily technical. Therefore, nutrition planning is a technique with inescapable political implications, especially when it comes to choosing alternative strategies.
The comprehensive analysis that this type of nutrition planning requires should put into perspective the under lying determinants of the problem. The planner is then confronted with evidence that suggests more radical interventions (meaning going to the roots of the problem and not necessarily in the pejorative sense of the word radical used in everyday politics). If planners chose not to go that route hey are deliberately skipping the issue, not at a subconscious, but at a conscious level, which tends to make their contradictions more visible, less sustainable and less bearable. This is the major new dimension that nutrition planning offers.
Nevertheless, man is a political animal, and so are planners, whether they accept it or not. Therefore, critically speaking, nutrition planning will continue to offer us only a good diagnostic tool, a good framework to consider alternative intervention strategies and a basis to validate ideologically stained policy decisions. It will also provide a good set of programme implementation and evaluation techniques. It should be clear that we cannot agree on the content of nutrition planning if we do not share the same explanations of why people are poor and malnourished. Different socio-economic contexts call for different nutrition planning approaches. These should be designed according to how far governments represent the underprivileged and how deeply they are committed to social equality. Only in countries with governments committed la quite radical social change can nutrition planners concentrate primarily on the more technical aspects of nutrition planning. Otherwise, community (grassroot) level organization, around food and nutrition issues in our care, is the only viable answer in the long term.
If others disagree with this view. I think they owe the rest of us an explanation. The challenge for the planner is to determine, in each national context, how much and what kind of macro changes are necessary, if the micro changes are to have improved prospects for success.
Does, then, western planning promote the status-quo or promote significant changes. Frequently western planning has left things basically as they are. There are many examples in the world in which sophisticated planning techniques have been, and are used, without having any really significant impact on development and on the nutritional status of the vulnerable groups. All too frequently this planning has lead to a worsening of the standards of living of considerable sectors of the population. This can be attributed to at least two major factors. The first is related to the choice of overall development strategy, ie. an emphasis on industrialization schemes to the detriment of agriculture, or an emphasis on increasing GNP as opposed to investment in human capital as a means of long term development. The second has to do with the dichotomy observed between suprastructural planning and the local realities of the infrastructure.
Western planning has tended to disregard the overall revolution of expectations, especially for the rural population, that modernization brings with it. I think we should ask the following type of questions at (he grassroots level: What are you and your family's expectations? How do you see them materializing? Does the system, with its rules of the game, allow for your expectations to become true? If the system would not put a limit on your expectations what would your expectations be then? What would your priorities be then? Winch of your expectations would you like to fulfil first, and how? What in the present system does not allow for your expectations to become true? What can be done about the latter?
Planners keep planning for the poor without incorporating them into the process.