How does HIV/AIDS affect the ability of people and communities in poor countries to feed themselves? How does food insecurity increase the risk of HIV infection? RENEWAL, the Regional Network on AIDS, Livelihoods and Food Security (lead by Stuart Gillespie, IFPRI) is a network-of-networks that attempts to further locally relevant research around the issue of AIDS and nutrition and the integration of research findings in policy processes. I find it one of the most exciting initiatives at IFPRI at the moment and I admire the bravery of the researchers to venture into this truely complex, dynamic, cross-disciplinary and confusing field. This is obviously an endevour where network knowledge and management are crucial to achieve improvements – I think the following quote from their website provides interesting food for thought:
“When considering responses, there also remains an over-emphasis on individuals as passive victims, overcome by AIDS – rather than as innovators. Too few studies seek to capture and learn from the many innovations that are underway. Policy response is also compartmentalized – even at the level of clinical nutritionists rarely interacting with food security specialists on issues of household and community food and nutrition security. Another problem is that monitoring and evaluation, frequently weak throughout development, is particularly weak or non-existent when it comes to tracking the HIV-relevant impacts of non-health policy. […]
In addition, capacity is constrained by the predominant vertical sectoral approach to response – even in countries where HIV is deeply rooted and where the policy environment has been the most conducive, there is limited evidence of a true multi-sectoral response, beyond declarations made on paper. ”
Today and tomorrow I will have the pleasure to work with RENEWAL’s country coordinators, drawing networks about the situation as is now and the strategic vision for the future when IFPRI’s role in the project will be less pronounced and ownership will rest more strongly in the hands of the countries.