AIS, SDSN PH continue discussion on food system governance with webinar on social protection
17 May 2023 | Raul Javier H. Baquiran
Last 3 May, 2023, a webinar entitled “Food Security, Social Safety Nets, and Social Protection” was organized by the Ateneo Institute of Sustainability (AIS), Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan, Xavier Science Foundation, Ateneo de Davao University, and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN PH). Moderated by Ateneo School of Government Dean Dr. Philip Arnold P. Tuaño, the event featured speakers from the academe, the government, and the CSO sector talking on issues relating to food security and social protection in the Philippines.
The webinar began with a national situationer on hunger and social protection from Dr. Fernando Aldaba, Professor of Economics at AdMU. Against the backdrop of recent 14-year highs in inflation, Dr. Aldaba cited how only gradual improvements in hunger and malnutrition have been made over the last 2 decades.
Dr Aldaba then provided an overview of government led social protection programs, including interagency task forces, conditional cash transfers, and public-private partnerships. In assessment of these programs, Dr. Aldaba pointed out shortcomings such as outdated registries and inadequacy of benefits, and forwarded that better program complementation and a strong leadership are needed to sustain a coherent response against food insecurity.
Afterwards, Ms Elaine P Soliman, Project Development Officer at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), discussed one of the department’s major nutritional programs, the Philippine Multisectoral Nutrition Project (PMNP), which seeks to provide support to 235 municipalities most burdened by hunger and undernutrition.
Emphasizing the multisectoral nature of the project, Ms. Soliman shared how the PMNP views the problem through a nutrition-sensitive lens, wherein the underlying determinants of undernutrition, such as healthcare, infrastructure, and education, are to be concertedly addressed. In light of this, she emphasized that the success of the project will require effective coordination between government agencies, aid organizations, and communities.
The last speaker for the event was Ms. Georgina Ann Hernandez Yang, Executive Director of Galing Pook Foundation, an NGO that empowers LGU-driven innovations. Ms. Hernandez Yang illustrated three examples of successful local food initiatives: an urban agriculture program in Quezon City, a consolidated farm production system in Piddig, Ilocos Norte, and a community transition to sustainable farming, aquaculture, and ecotourism in Tanay, Rizal.
In hopes of amplifying the impact of these projects, Ms Hernandez Yang revealed that manuals are being created for other LGUs to replicate the successful models. Along with policy and program implementation, she elevated the centrality of effective social behavioral communication for Filipinos to buy into sustainable lifestyle changes.
After the three talks, two discussants shared their responses to the webinar speakers. First, Mr Elvin Ivan Uy, Executive Director of Philippine Business for Social Progress, broadened the view of the issue, reminding the audience that almost one-fifth of the Filipino population live in poverty. While he admitted that such contexts make development work seem disheartening, he affirmed that the work matters, and must be continued and intensified. Second, Ms Veronica Obat, a Program Implementer from CSWDO Davao City, added that the challenge is not to rely on providing food to those who need it, but to train communities how to sustainably secure their own food.
The ensuing open discussion allowed speakers and reactors to answer questions from the audience. Discussion points included concerns about the sustainability of food programs and institutions, directions for government and private-sector collaboration, and debate about national and local delineation of functions.
The event, which was attended by over 200 participants via Zoom and YouTube, marked the second installment in the webinar series on “Policy and Governance of Sustainable Food Systems.” This series is being organized by SDSN Philippine’s SDG2 Zero Hunger Project, composed of food advocates from Philippine universities committed to promoting food security and ending hunger. The third webinar, focusing on Nutrition, Health, WASH, and Food Safety, is set to take place on 19 July 2023, 2:00-4:00 pm.
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