The South Asian Policy Leadership for Improved Nutrition and Growth (SAPLING), a multi-stakeholder advocacy platform for healthy, affordable and accessible diets all over South Asia, was launched today on Sunday (7 July 2019) in Dhaka. SAPLING platform is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with its secretariat hosted by the Health, Nutrition and Population Programme (HNPP) of BRAC. The platform aims to be an exclusive regional mechanism which collates relevant evidence, brings greater visibility to nutrition issues and promotes action by engaging with policy making processes and leadership at the national level. The Launch ushered in discussions on cross border perspectives regarding food systems and nutrition priorities for South Asia.
Dr Purvi Mehta, deputy director and head of Asia for Agriculture at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Kaosar Afsana, professor at BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health at BRAC University, and Saiqa Siraj, coordinator of SAPLING and programme head of HNNP, BRAC, among others, addressed the audience at the launch event.
Asif Saleh, acting executive director of BRAC, moderated a panel discussion on the topic of “Healthy, affordable and accessible diets for all across South Asia: Where do we stand?” Dr Akhter Ahmed, country representative of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Bangladesh, Dr Sandy Thomas, director of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, Dr Basanta Kumar Kar, country director of Project Concern International, India, Dr Tayan Raj Gurung, senior specialist, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan, Dr WMW Weerakoon, director general of the Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Sri Lanka, and Dr Morseda Chowdhury, associate director of HNPP, also participated in the panel.
Youth involvement in food systems businesses, food trade within South Asia and political commitment to nutrition were especially focused in the panel discussion.
Throughout the next year, SAPLING will continue its role as a policy advocate, knowledge hub and facilitator. The platform will accumulate high quality research and case studies from the region to develop papers on the status quo of food systems in South Asia and policy recommendations. Latest news and resources from SAPLING can be found on www.sapling-initiative.org.