Cook, Eat, Man, Woman: Understanding the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, Nutritionism and Its Alternatives from Malawi

Citation:

Patel, Raj, Rachel Bezner Kerr, Lizzie Shumba, and Laifolo Dakishoni. 2015. “Cook, Eat, Man, Woman: Understanding the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, Nutritionism and Its Alternatives from Malawi.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 42 (1): 21-44.

Authors: Raj Patel, Rachel Bezner Kerr, Lizzie Shumba, Laifolo Dakishoni

Abstract:

The Group of Eight Countries (G8) launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to improve nutritional outcomes through private sector involvement in agricultural development. The accession of Malawi to the Alliance reveals the assumptions behind the intervention. We show that while the New Alliance may seem to have little to do with nutrition, its emergence as a frame for the privatization of food and agriculture has been decades in the making, and is best understood as an outcome of a project of nutritionism. To highlight the failings of the approach, we present findings from the Soils, Food and Healthy Communities Initiative in northern Malawi, which has demonstrated success in combatting malnutrition through a combination of agroecological farming practices, community mobilization, women’s empowerment and changes in intrahousehold gender dynamics. Contrasting a political economic analysis of the New Alliance alongside that of the Soils, Food and Healthy Communities Initiative shows the difference between a concern with the gendered social context of malnutrition, and nutritionism. We conclude with an analysis of the ways that nutrition can play a part in interventions that are inimical, or conducive, to freedom. 

Keywords: New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, agroecology, nutritionism, gender, Malawi, Africa, food security, food sovereignty

Topics: Agriculture, Development, Gender, Political Economies, Privatization, Security, Food Security Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: Malawi

Year: 2015

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