FAO bestows BR Sen Award

FAO’s work with the Government of Bangladesh to improve food security and nutrition policy and practices has resulted in two FAO specialists receiving the Organization’s highest achievement awards in back-to-back years, FAO announced today.

Lalita Bhattacharjee, an FAO nutrition specialist working toward improvements in nutrition policy and practices in Bangladesh, has won the 2014 FAO B.R. Sen Award, while Ciro Fiorillo, an FAO manager and agricultural and development economist, has received the 2013 B.R Sen Award for exceptional leadership provided to the National Food Policy Capacity Strengthening BR SEN AwardProgram in Bangladesh. The work of both officials was supported by resource partners the EU and USAID.

The B.R. Sen Award was established by FAO in 1968 to honour the hard work of staff in the field and in recognition of the role of former Director-General B.R. Sen (1956 – 1967), who transformed FAO from a study organization to a development agency. Although the award is annual, the winners are announced during the FAO Conference, held every two years, and underway this week in Rome.

Bhattacharjee, a national of India and holder of a PhD in Foods and Nutrition, has worked across multiple levels of policy and society in Bangladesh helping to create and strengthen a sense of ‘nutrition orientation’ in household food security, horticulture and integrated agriculture and health based interventions.

“Lalita Bhattacharjee has exuded passion and practical expertise in bridging the gap between science, local knowledge and policy,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. “Her tireless work with policy makers and communities on improved nutrition outcomes has been of particular benefit to households, women and children,” said Konuma. “As lead FAO Nutritionist in Bangladesh, Bhattacharjee has been a leader of the national debate on nutrition as a development objective placing the issue of ‘food-based nutrition’ high on the agriculture, food and nutrition policy agenda.”

Bhattacharjee’s work included the development and promotion of improved local nutritious recipes to enhance dietary diversity directly, as well as helping to shape a generation of food-based nutrition leaders/change agents among government ministries, academia and research institutions. Bhattacharjee personally mentored multi-sectoral ‘thematic teams’ within government to analyze the relationship between policies and nutrition outcomes. The manual of complementary food recipes was launched by the prime minister of Bangladesh and is now being used as a training tool at sub national and community levels.

2013 B.R. Sen Award – Pragmatic policy developments and partnerships to end hunger and malnutrition

Fiorillo, a national of Italy and holder of a PhD in Agricultural Policy, led a team of 25 national and international FAO professionals that jointly provided technical and capacity development support to the Government of Bangladesh and its partners in establishing a leading example of comprehensive policy assistance that inspired the formulation and implementation of FAO Strategic Objective 1 which aims to end food insecurity and malnutrition.

“Fiorillo’s outstanding managerial, motivational and technical skills delivered high quality and timely support that concretely and pragmatically responded to national needs in building up a concerted multi-disciplinary effort and formulating a comprehensive food security policy, which was further translated into an investment plan and attracted large external funding resources for implementation,” said Konuma. “His work led to the establishment of partnerships and shaped shared visions between government, civil society, research institutions and development partners that allowed Bangladesh to become the first country in Asia to adopt a Country Investment Plan for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition. This is recognized regionally and globally as a leading example of how institutional and policy reforms can advance towards eradicating hunger and malnutrition.”

Fiorillo’s work involved setting-up a composite institutional mechanism for inter-sectoral and multi-stakeholder collaboration and coordination at political and technical levels bringing together 17 divisions from 14 ministries, civil society organizations as well as private sector and development partners. He led an extensive research programme of USD 1.7 million, engaging 130 national civil society organizations in producing 60 policy-focused research projects as knowledge for national multi-stakeholder dialogue to inform policy formulation, investment planning and monitoring. Bangladesh now has a comprehensive food security and nutrition policy, and a Country Investment Plan for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, that has enabled the government to mobilize nearly USD 8 billion between 2010 and 2013, more than a third of which has come from international donors.