Private Sector Partnerships: A Key Ingredient for Getting Back on Track to End Malnutrition
Without the backing of the private sector, ending global hunger by 2030 seems unlikely. Here is how the development community can better work with private partners to achieve common nutrition goals.
With 690 million people hungry around the globe, the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, Zero Hunger, is a critical call to action for the global community to end hunger worldwide. Despite best efforts by the international community, we are not on track to achieving this goal by 2030. According to the United Nations, if we continue on our current path, we would have more than 840 million people
who are hungry by 2030.
Historically, the public sector has worked fairly independently from the private sector to tackle the challenge of advancing nutrition outcomes, usually measuring success at the household level. But to achieve sustainable impact at scale, we should consider how changes in broader food market systems can contribute to nutrition outcomes and the critical role that the private sector plays in food and nutrition security. It is even safe to say that without the private sector’s support, we won’t achieve SDG 2, as current trends seem to show.
Yet, building strong partnerships with the private sector hasn’t always come easily to the development sector — particularly when public and private partners have different end goals, use different business jargon, and have experience operating in different working environments. Effective private sector partnerships to advance nutrition outcomes require development projects to proactively share information, reframe nutrition as business, and strategically form collaborative partnerships to address known constraints to both supply and demand of nutritious foods, thereby creating more sustainable, broader changes. Based on experience from the Feed the Future Rwanda Orora Wihaze Activity
— a five-year USAID contract implemented by Land O’Lakes Venture37
that improves nutrition for women and children in Rwanda by applying a Market Systems Development approach
— here are three ways that the development community can form stronger partnerships with our private sector counterparts as we work together to achieve SDG 2.
Proactively Share Information
Make information accessible and transparent. Many development projects undertake significant research and studies to inform their activities. But sometimes, development implementers fail to share these outcomes with private stakeholders, despite the fact that market data accumulated through those studies can be tremendously beneficial for businesses as well.
In its first year, the Feed the Future Rwanda Orora Wihaze Activity conducted an extensive consumption study to understand the specific behaviors and attitudes of women, mothers, grandmothers, and men in Rwanda towards consuming animal source foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and milk, as well as feeding these foods to their young children. The study determined areas where private sector actors could invest and improve their capacity to produce, process, market, and distribute animal-source food products. Sharing findings and data makes it easier for Orora Wihaze to achieve common goals with business partners and gives potential partners more information and alternatives, making their work and our work more productive and aligned.
Reframe Nutrition as Business
Illustrate the business case for integrating nutrition outcomes, and start shifting the perception that businesses do not play a role in nutrition. As you’re doing so, it’s important to find common ground when engaging businesses, so apply a business mindset and ‘speak’ the business language. Donor-funded projects too often lose the interest of private businesses by using development jargon that doesn’t jive with the private sector, or by failing to make a business case. To gain a private business’ buy-in, it’s not enough to speak solely about corporate social responsibility; social responsibility in and of itself doesn’t float a business. A business needs to make a profit, and the development sector must speak to opportunities for profit through evidence-based business decisions. This can be especially useful when encouraging businesses to reach your project’s target participants. In doing so, market actors will start to see the benefit of doing business with those whom they may not otherwise have marketed towards.
Orora Wihaze is doing just that — the program is reframing nutrition as a business opportunity, rather than just a normative or ethical goal. Orora Wihaze is hiring local business development service providers to help small and medium enterprises improve their business models through financial planning, product marketing, and consumer testing. Among these enterprises, Orora Wihaze is assisting a local poultry abattoir, JFILEWO, build a more inclusive business by tailoring products towards underserved market segments. To do so, it is conducting a consumer behavior analysis to determine desirable poultry cuts and affordability of those various cuts to its target customers — primarily women in rural households. This will inform the abattoir’s business operations while meeting Orora Wihaze’s goal to increase the affordability and accessibility of poultry products. Such studies demonstrate the business case for a more inclusive business models that harness otherwise overlooked market opportunities.
By reframing nutrition as a business opportunity — in this case, through our survey results — our private sector partners now see USAID’s target participants as potential customers who can significantly impact their bottom line.
Strategically Form Collaborative Partnerships
When partnering with a business to advance project goals, it is vitally important that the partnership is strategic, catalytic, and mutual. Start by understanding the business’ strategic goals and vision for growth, their motivation, and their business model, and work together to co-create activities that have a shared vision for success. Once you identify those win-win opportunities — and business incentives align with project goals — businesses will have more ownership of activities, thus ensuring sustainability after project close.
In selecting partners, Orora Wihaze prioritizes businesses that put consumers first to meet the needs of the Activity’s target participants. Our strategic approach assesses the company’s 'will' and 'skill' — i.e. motivation and capacity — to ensure alignment, ownership, and compatibility from the get-go. For example, Orora Wihaze is partnering with a local fish cooperative, COPIKI, to pilot a buy-back model with the co-op’s producer members, who also happen to be Orora Wihaze’s target participants. COPIKI and Orora Wihaze co-created this activity and decided together what kind of model advanced both COPIKI’s and Orora Wihaze’s goals. Orora Wihaze also made an assessment and determined that COPIKI had the experience and willingness necessary to successfully pilot this new model. It’s a win-win for Orora Wihaze, the cooperative, and the target households.
As we near 2030, and as we continue our efforts to end global hunger and malnutrition, let’s not forget that the private sector will play a critical role in the sustainability of our development efforts. By sharing information, reframing nutrition as business, and co-creating, development implementers can form stronger partnerships with the private sector as we work towards common goals.
Banner image: Small fish farming in Lake Kivu, Nyamasheke District, Rwanda