Goals and Targets for Nutrition Require Leaders at the Coal Face for Sustained Success

We cannot wait if we are to achieve what have been set for 2025

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Nutrition at the core of development

The buzz and activity around nutrition continues into 2016. Countries now have the Sustainable Development Goals  to guide their broad actions and commitments over the next 10 years. And, there is no doubt that nutrition is at their core – being either a vital precondition for success (Goals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 14, 16) or for the remainder their achievement will significantly support improved nutrition. For nutrition directly, we have as our guide the six World Health Assembly Global Targets aimed specifically at improving maternal, infant and young child nutrition and providing a framework for monitoring progress. We also have the Micronutrient Forum that provides a collaborative space for anyone with an interest in reducing micronutrient malnutrition and, the second Nutrition for Growth Summit, set to take place in Rio at the time of the Olympic Games, with the aim of continuing to increase investments directed toward ending malnutrition in all its forms. 

Investment beyond programs

Goals, targets and funding are absolutely necessary to achieve the all-encompassing Zero Hunger challenge but, where we as the nutrition community, are really struggling is at the leadership development and implementation level. Scale and sustainability have to be at the centre of our planning. A recent article in Advances in Nutrition, following a stakeholders workshop in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, of the same title ‘Educating and Training a Workforce for Nutrition in a Post-2015 World’ clearly frames the issue, “the promise to deliver nutrition at scale cannot be met if it is not accompanied by investments in the capacities of people, organizations, and institutions to support emerging targets, programs, and agendas.”

Much lip service is given to the need to grow the leadership capacity within nutrition but the how, the what and the where, often seems unclear. There is the recognition amongst many that it is time to hand the leadership baton to the younger nutrition professionals, but this is only one component of the bigger picture. We need a growing, strong, connected, multi-sectorial cadre of empowered and leadership trained individuals at all levels who are leading from where they stand. As much as we need strong leadership at our academic and technical institutions and within the structures of the UN and our development partners, we more urgently need them at the coal face – the district level where programs have to be implemented and where scale is critical. We need motivated individuals who understand how effective teams work, who can create aligned commitment amongst a diverse group of stakeholders and, who can communicate effectively.

Leading from where you stand

Sight and Life is a proud and enthusiastic supporter of the African Nutrition Leadership Programme (ANLP)  that is committed to the development of both individual and organisational leadership capabilities in the broader area of nutrition on the African continent. The program has nothing to do with nutrition (from a content perspective) but everything to do empowering nutrition and allied professionals with leadership skills through a journey of self-discovery, discussion, debate and feedback. The 14th (the program began in 2002) 10-day individual immersion programme has just taken place in South Africa and a further 26 diverse individuals from 13 African countries now become part of an over 350 strong network from 34 countries. I am fortunate enough to be an alumnus of the very first ANLP and have been coming back, as part of the support team, since then. It is always the highlight of my year as I get to be part of an incredible metamorphosis. Uncertainty and even apprehension are the key feelings I witness as the group disembark from the bus. Yet 10 days later, as they head home, there is a real feeling of family and energy and a deep seated desire to do things differently (an indication that there is a need for changing ourselves and our attitudes) and to make a difference (no matter how big or small) where they work and in their home countries.

One of the tasks an ANLP Committee was charged with was to write a daily blog and, if you are interested to share in their experiences, you can go » here to read them. The final blog is snippets from the participants at the end of the course – Maureen from Kenya writes, “I can do what I perceive to be impossible. Most times I am my own inhibition. Obstacles are just distractions that I should overcome to achieve my goal. Lead from where you are, it is not about positions, change begins with me.” And Oluwaseun from Nigeria says, “I have learnt to come out of my comfort zone, challenge myself to undertake difficult tasks and go beyond cosmetic changes.”  The group also wrote a declaration that they all commit to, openly share and want to be held accountable to:

“We the ANLP 2016 participants are focussed on our goal to transform Africa through improving nutrition for all. We are inspired, committed and empowered to keep and grow multi-sectorial networks, foster personal development and build capacity. We will conduct needs driven research and advocate for nutrition. We are future oriented. We will persevere. We will lead from where we stand. We will succeed.”

And our commitment is…

I take a step back and, believe that the broader nutrition community needs to prioritize discussions around capacity and leadership development, alongside really getting to grips with implementation science. The Castel Gandolfo workshop and subsequent paper open the conversation, make some recommendations and provide the beginnings of a potential roadmap BUT now we need to take this to the next level. And we cannot wait if we are to achieve the goals and targets that have been set for 2025.

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