Monday, 25 November 2013

Research to action: The Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI), Tanzania

By Fran Seballos, Tamlyn Munslow and Dolf te Lintelo

On November 14, Tanzanian dailies fronted with headlines estimating that 11.3 per cent of Tanzanians experience extreme (food) poverty. This coincided with an IDS presentation of results from the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) to a group of Tanzanian members of the Parliamentary Group for Nutrition, Food Security and Children’s Rights, including two deputy ministers. This blog reflects on some key learning from our engagement with ‘hunger and nutrition champions’.

Co-construction enables greater access to decision-makers

Working in partnership with Save the Children and the Partnership for Nutrition in Tanzania (PANITA) – who supports the Parliamentary Group to act as ‘nutrition champions’ – IDS led the process of co-constructing a set of key findings with which to target the MPs. They married evidence from the HANCI secondary data and primary research conducted in Tanzania to critical issues in PANITA’s existing advocacy strategy and aligned them with ongoing efforts of the Parliamentary Group. As such key findings were first shared with, and approved by, the Chair of the Parliamentary Group to ensure their suitability for our audience.

Evidence-informed messages targeting political leaders

Where evidence allowed, we praised the Government of Tanzania for initiating key actions, notably establishing a National Nutrition Strategy; a coordinating mechanism which brings together stakeholders from across sectors; and having a separate budget line for nutrition. But - based on research undertaken with 40 Tanzanian experts - the first key finding stressed the need for improving the functionality of the coordination mechanism to better support the mainstreaming of nutrition into policies and strategies across sectors. Further evidence from the expert survey was used to highlight the lack of financial resources in the nutrition budget line which impacts on the realisation of policy objectives, particularly at the sub-national level. The third key finding noted that data on both nutrition outcomes and the quality of the delivery of policies and programmes was insufficiently available to usefully inform decision-makers.

While these findings produced affirmative nods from audience, Parliamentarians were surprised to hear that political party manifestoes (2010-2015) were seen to not adequately reflect hunger and nutrition as key development issues. Nevertheless, they quickly accepted that improving this could be a key political driver for greater action on hunger and nutrition in national government policy, laws and budget allocations.

Developing political ownership of findings and solutions

Presenting HANCI evidence on ‘problems’ and ‘why they matter’, and not prefabricating solutions successfully facilitated the MPs to themselves propose (and own) ‘solutions’, and translate these into personal action.

From solutions to action…

The MPs enthusiastically noted that HANCI evidence grounds complex nutrition issues and provides useful ammunition for them to exercise political leadership and strengthen their oversight over the Government. Specifically the MPs were keen to learn from the actions of other African countries that out-ranked Tanzania (8th) in the Index, in order to emulate and leapfrog them in future. Consequently, the MPs proposed several actions:
  1. To take the lead in ensuring that nutrition is included as a key development issue in the next set of political manifestoes (2015-2020)
  2. To champion nutrition in their regions and districts
  3. Seeking to get the National Nutrition Strategy as a permanent agenda item in sub-national committees and council meetings
  4. One MP committed to preparing a private motion for Parliament to demand regular and improved collation, access and use of nutrition outcome and policy implementation data at the district level throughout the country, thus enabling MPs to hold policy implementers better to account and to incentivise them to perform better.
All in all, the visit made a very promising start of what we hope will be an enduring relationship with Tanzanian decision-makers, to support them to foster greater political action on hunger and nutrition.