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Nepal hosts SAPLING’s regional dialogue on resilient agri-food system in South Asia

KATHMANDU: The South Asian Policy Leadership for Improved Nutrition and Growth (SAPLING) held their second dialogue event in Kathmandu, Nepal on improving agri-food systems.

The SAPLING initiative was launched in 2019 and aims to drive a ‘food systems approach’ to combat malnutrition in South Asia in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The event spread over one and a half days and saw the participation of over 60 delegates from SAPLING member countries, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India and Bhutan.

The event was co-hosted by the Nepal Planning Commission (NPC), with BRAC Bangladesh- the current SAPLING Secretariat, the largest non-governmental development organisation in the world and IPE Global Limited, an Indian development sector think and do tank, and Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS), Nepal, a not-for-profit think-tank headquartered in Kathmandu.

SAPLING is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The first day of the event focussed on setting the context.

Siddharth Chaturvedi, Senior Programme Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spoke on the need for and importance of having a regional platform for consensus building among various stakeholders for mainstreaming evidence-based policy, action and leadership to combat malnutrition in line with policymakers’ needs and priorities through an agri-food system lens.

Kewal Prasad Bhandari, Secretary, Nepal Planning Commission shared his views and acknowledged the need for inter-government collaboration and also bringing together private sector partners, other relevant stakeholders.

Jay Kant Raut, Member, National Planning Commission, Government of Nepal provided his concluding remarks and stated that this was the right time for collaboration and cooperation among the South Asian countries as all countries in the region are faced with similar threats of climate change and post-harvest losses and an initiative like SAPLING can play a key role to achieve this.

The second day featured a policymakers’ round table where high-level government dignitaries from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal discussed the priorities, the agendas for regional collaboration for strengthening agri-food systems and the modalities for the same.

There was a brainstorming session on the use of technologies for Climate Smart Agriculture and Post-Harvest Loss Reduction to steer regional collaboration.Dr. Govinda Prasad Sharma, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Government of Nepal participated in the deliberations.

Panel discussions were also held on how to create an enabling environment to promote cross-border private sector investments, and on steering knowledge collaborations and learning among SAPLING countries.

The experts and government officials participating in the event endorsed the need for having an initiative like SAPLING which could act as an agile regional platform to foster inter-governmental collaboration and perform the role of a knowledge aggregator around the use of climate-smart technologies, reducing post-harvest losses, improving food safety to pollinate learnings from the member countries across the region.

The event witnessed an unveiling of a Kathmandu statement making a commitment to nurture resilient food systems for a nutrition-secure South Asia.

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