Shoko Kinoshita, UN Volunteer Food and Nutrition Specialist with FAO, with participants in a workshop for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Setting the table for nutrition-sensitive food systems in Viet Nam

Arriving in Viet Nam during the first year of a global project of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on nutrition-sensitive food systems, UNV-HRD Volunteer Shoko Kinoshita knew she would have to leverage her technical know-how and expertise to help set the table for a better food system. Funded by the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), the project is implemented in Ghana, Kenya and Viet Nam. Shoko joined the FAO office in the country as a UN Volunteer Food Security and Nutrition Specialist in April 2018, working in the field of food safety, nutrition and food systems.

Despite significant improvement in food security during the last 20 years, many Vietnamese face undernutrition, overnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. To ensure food systems contribute to better nutrition, it is essential to strengthen the capacities of various stakeholders including national governments, academia and the private sector, to mainstream nutrition in their policies and investments.

During her assignment, Shoko focused on developing capacity of university students in non-health related fields such as agriculture and food science, as well as Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). SME’s are critical to developing nutrition-sensitive food systems given their potential for reaching more vulnerable populations.

Shoko conducted research and developed a country background paper on nutrition and the SME landscape. With inputs from a national consultant and FAO heaquarters, Shoko’s paper identified five major challenges Vietnamese SMEs face in supplying nutritious food to consumers and three key areas for capacity development.

Shoko also supported the organization of two technical workshops with local partners and FAO missions. The technical workshops brought together 90 leaders and representatives from government, SMEs and the private sector, research groups and civil service organizations, to discuss the roles of different actors and action areas in strengthening nutrition-sensitive food systems in Viet Nam. 

Through her work, I helped to set the table for the future success of the nutrition-sensitive food systems project. The country background paper I developed will be used to design e-learning training modules that underpin the second and third year of the project. As a result, capacity will be built – not just of governments, SMEs and universities, but also of training providers – helping to sustain these efforts over time. --Shoko Kinoshita, UN Volunteer Food Security and Nutrition Specialist

Shoko spoke very highly of her volunteer experience. "Since my previous career was mainly in the private sector, I learned a range of new aspects, from policy-related matters and the roles of different stakeholders to cross-cutting topics." 

Being a UN Volunteer is a valuable asset, both for the host agency and the UN Volunteer’s career development perspective. It was a great experience and I am grateful to everyone who supported me during my assignment. --Shoko Kinoshita

Shoko served through the Global Human Resource Development Programme for Peacebuilding and Development (HRD) of the Government of Japan. Shoko's assignment contributed to SDG 2, End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

This article was prepared with the kind support of Online Volunteer Helen Maccan.