The SAPLING initiative is a coalition of senior decision makers from major national and regional organisations in South Asia, with the common goal of developing integrated, local and national multi-sectoral action on food systems, to combat malnutrition in all its forms.

Much has already been achieved in the drive to address malnutrition, particularly undernutrition, in many South Asian countries. However, despite these gains, some areas of malnutrition persist. Population growth, increasing urbanisation and the threat of climate change exert huge pressures on regional, national and local food systems. In South Asia, these shifts are already contributing to the “double burden” of rising rates of overweight (including obesity and its associated non-communicable diseases) and undernutrition.

It is clear that a ‘business as usual’ approach to policy and practice will not be sufficient and no single organisation will have the capacity or mandate to meet the these challenges in South Asia. This is why the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) along with the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition proposed the South Asian Policy Leadership for Improved Nutrition and Growth (SAPLING), which will champion the development of integrated, multi-sectoral action to combat of malnutrition in all its forms.

South Asia high-level roundtable in New Delhi, India on 12 February 2016

At the South Asia high-level roundtable in New Delhi, India on 12 February 2016, under the leadership of Panel member Professor Srinath Reddy, in partnership with the Public Health Foundation India (PHFI) and the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), a Statement of Intent to create SAPLING has been signed by participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, including the Government of India and West Bengal, World Bank, South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANSI), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), BRAC, and Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA).

From intent to action - High-level meeting in New Delhi, India, 6 October 2016

The meeting showed clear political will from South Asian leaders to transform agriculture and food systems to improve diets and nutrition and to help South Asian countries achieve their Sustainable Development Goals.

SAPLING’s aims are clear, to foster improved nutrition at all levels of society through the creation of novel evidence based, nutrition-sensitive policies on agriculture and food systems, involving multiple sectors at local, national and regional levels. What is required now is for new and innovative thinking so:

  • governments, civil society, business, and the knowledge community work in stronger partnerships;
  • the best available evidence is made available to inform policy decisions;
  • interventions are developed that are robust and sustainable; and
  • existing national and local strategies are integrated.

SAPLING high-level roundtable in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 22 November 2017

As part of a three-day event, participants, led by the Global Panel Secretariat, identified key priorities and a plan of action to take the SAPLING initiative forward. More details available here.