Blog Building capacities of small and medium enterprises for nutrition-sensitive food systems in Vietnam

The Alliance is part of a multi-stakeholder partnership to promote nutrition-sensitive food systems in Vietnam while fighting poverty and malnutrition. This year’s goal is to scale up the role of small and medium enterprises in food system transformation.


With contributions from: Lisa DeVitis and Pilar Santacoloma, FAO

Despite progress to reduce poverty and improve nutritional health, Vietnam still faces substantial challenges in nutrition – and considerable regional disparities – in the prevalence of undernutrition, including being underweight and stunting in children.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) constitute a significant part of the Vietnamese business environment and the agricultural sector. They are important contributors to development goals related to food security, nutrition and economic development.

As part of its ongoing collaboration with small businesses, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT signed agreements with municipalities and international organizations to contribute to scaling up the capacities of SMEs in making healthy food more accessible to local communities. Through this work, the Alliance contributes to Vietnam’s achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

SMEs such as small family farms, family-owned grocery shops, and traditional market retailers represent 98% of total enterprises in the country (as of 2017), and therefore have great potential to promote healthy diets and lifestyles.

Markets are home to local SMEs and key for food systems’ transformation in Vietnam. © Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT / Georgina Smith

In partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Vietnam National University of Agriculture (VNUA), the Alliance led a training workshop to boost the skills of SMEs on nutrition-sensitive practices in November 2020. The workshop was the starting point for the implementation of many activities, such as one-on-one mentoring, and organizing a learning event as an opportunity to share research results, best practices, and lessons learned during the project implementation.

The work with the Alliance will contribute to efforts that FAO and other organizations are promoting in the country to align existing SME practices with healthy diets. This work aims to generate a verifiable mentoring methodology that considers specific SMEs’ needs and generates changes in their business practices.

The goal is to drive improvement in the food system by bridging the gap between their business practices and the need to make healthy diets and lifestyles more available and accessible.

In Can Tho City, the Alliance is rolling out technical support to a local network of Can Tho Socio-Economics Institute under the People’s Committee of Can Tho city and SMEs to foster an enabling environment within the vegetables and fruits sector, ultimately making nutritious products more accessible through markets. These initiatives can provide a platform for supporting consumers to adopt healthier diets and lifestyles.

Alliance researcher Ricardo Hernandez says,

“these partnerships give the Alliance the opportunity to work with private sector actors to bolster availability of nutritious food for vulnerable populations in Vietnam.”

For the Alliance in particular, these experiences and networks on engaging with the private sector along the value chains for healthier diets will create a good background for going forward with joint OneCGIAR efforts and initiatives to transform food systems for healthy diets in upcoming years in Vietnam.