Malnutrition is a multi-faceted problem and cannot be solved only by health and nutrition practitioners. It needs multidisciplinary and multisectoral but integrative approaches in order to minimize if not solve this problem. The causes of malnutrition, being multiple and complex, are better addressed with the collaborative efforts of several disciplines.
One concrete example is the malnutrition problem due to poverty in an upland area. The people are poor despite planting cash crops under the forest trees. Their productivity is low because the cash crops they plant are not suitable and the soil had become infertile because of inappropriate planting methods. Nutritionist Dietitians (NDs) can advice them about nutrition, but foresters must also advise them about upland crops and methods so they will have a better source of livelihood.
Research and extension professionals of the Barangay Integrated Development Approach for Nutrition Improvement (Bidani) recognize the common goal: Assuring human existence in a sustainable environment. This requires an integrated disciplinary approach to get to the root causes of problems and identify appropriate, lasting solutions.
The study of man alone necessitates the use of both the natural and social sciences.
Since its inception as a Nutrition Improvement Model, an action-research project of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1978, until it became a full blown network program of state universities and colleges (SUCs), Bidani’s niche has always been human ecology: the study of man and his interaction with the environment. Beginning with the physical matter of health and nutrition, we realize it is better viewed from a socio-economic standpoint. Health and nutrition are the best indicators of socio-economic progress. Only healthy and well-nourished individuals can participate in and contribute to socio-economic development.
Although we began with the goal of nutrition improvement (NI), it did not become the sole focus of Bidani. As we aspire to be holistic, NI led us to look for improvement in other interrelated areas of concern, including physical infrastructure such as farm to market roads, peace and order, livelihood, potable water, among others.
During the earlier times of the College of Human Ecology (CHE), the three departments and one institute collaborated for the practicum of both the Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology (BSHE) and Bachelor of Science in Nutrition (BSN) programs. The objective was to produce graduates with holistic perspectives who can articulate each of the departments’ objectives. The BSHE curriculum includes nutrition. At the same time, the BSN curriculum includes an introduction to human ecology because knowledge of the concept will enable students to understand the deep-rooted problems of man and his relationship with the physical, social, biological and economic environments which affect human nutrition.
Under the Department of Human and Family Development Studies (HFDS), the locus of operation is the family. BIDANI aims to help sustain healthy and well- nourished families to enable them to participate in socio-economic development. This is the same target set by the Institute of Human Nutrition and Food (IHNF). The Department of Social Development Services (DSDS) targets communities to receive or avail of social services through different technologies and to take care of the environment, which is the domain of the Department of Community and Environmental Resource Planning (DCERP). Each domain interacts with one another. Synergy is the essence of human ecology, and Bidani is utilized by the entire college for teaching, research, and extension.
At present, UPLB-Bidani has established linkages with colleges in UPLB—e.g., the College of Public Affairs and Development in the conduct of researches and studies on good governance, food security, nutrition program management and gender and development.
Bidani hopes to collaborate with other UP units through continuous upgrading of Bidani innovative components dealing with the community’s ability to manage information, refinement of the integrative development approach, and promotion of community participation in their own nutrition.
Evolution from model to integrated development approach
Bidani is a community-based, multidisciplinary, holistic, development-oriented approach aimed at improving governance and strengthening the food and nutrition security of Philippine villages. Evolving from the Nutrition Improvement Model (NIM), in 1982, the project changed its acronym to Bidani to live up to its approach. With funding assistance from the Netherlands for 10 years (1990-2000), the project expanded to a program of seven SUCs: Isabela State University (Region II), Central Luzon State University (Region III), Bicol State University (Region V), UP Visayas (Region VI), Visayas State University (formerly Visayas State College of Agriculture) (Region VIII), Central Mindanao State University (Region X), with UPLB as national overall coordinator.
These academic institutions, through their extension programs, partner with local government units to promote nutrition-in-development through community and other key stakeholders’ participation in an integrated management system. As such, Bidani considers nutrition as an objective, a component, an indicator, and outcome of development.
Being non-secular, non-partisan, scientific, and highly committed to their academic and social goals, the SUCs of Bidani have earned the trust of the communities that sustain the program.
Bidani as a program is now in its 38th year, lodged at the Institute of Human Nutrition and Food, College of Human Ecology (IHNF-CHE), UPLB as the national overall coordinator. It has become the academe’s unique and continuing contribution to national development despite changes in the political leadership. It has become a flagship program of UPLB and has received multiple awards and recognitions.
In four decades, Bidani was strengthened through the implementation of innovative components or strategies:
1) Barangay Integrated Development Approach (BIDA) the development strategy for LGUs through a systematic, holistic and bottom-up approach in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of projects and activities as embodied in a Barangay Integrated Development Plan (BIDP);
2) Participative Nutrition Enhancement Approach (PNEA) through strengthening health and nutrition interventions in the prevention of malnutrition and rehabilitation of malnourished children.
3) Barangay Management Information System (BMIS), which focuses on the needs of the barangay through an efficient and effective data collection prior to program planning, and management and implementation of various projects and activities at the barangay.
Bidanized equals better LGUs
One of the aims of Barangay Integrated Development Approach (BIDA) is to create awareness and to empower people in the local communities to participate actively in the development process. The BIDA as an innovative strategy is a package of capability building activities aimed at developing the capacity of the barangays in developing and managing nutrition-oriented programs. Technical trainings are conducted for project development or formulation of the barangay integrated development plan (BIDP) and implementation.
Trained barangay local government units (BLGUs) ensure that project planning is participatory, multi-sectoral, and uses the bottoms-up approach involving all the local officials and community stakeholders in problems and needs identification, and in identification of possible solutions.
Bidani has made a difference in empowering local government units and other stakeholders in community nutrition development planning. This was attained through relative coordination and complementation of projects, programs and activities among the development functionaries and the intended clientele and enhanced linkages of grassroots, stakeholders and other institutions such as government organization (GOs), non-government organization (NGOs), private agencies, and people’s organizations (POs).
With the adoption and operationalization of the Bidani strategy,
(1) A system in planning has been established in the barangays. Through the system the local officials and community members are able to identify sectoral problems and needs of the community from ocular inspection and surveys. With the availability of updated information, the local officials are able to come up with programs, projects and activities (PPAs) in the Barangay Integrated Development Plans (BIDPs) that are appropriate to the needs of their constituents.
LGUs which are “Bidanized” are able to effectively and efficiently evaluate and manage their own resources and needs, and access national and higher level programs of government and non-government organizations providing much needed assistance relevant to their situation.
(2) The expanded Barangay Development Councils/Program Planning and Implementing Committees (BDCs/PPICs) has become more organized, active and functional and are able to implement projects and deliver services to their constituents. Moreover, through the strategy, people’s participation in barangay activities has increased.
(3) They are able to monitor the children with malnutrition problems and are able to implement programs responsive to their needs like feeding programs, the establishment of food production areas, and livelihood training. They are able to link with concerned municipal agencies and members of the PPIC to work on projects.
(4) Bidani catchment barangays have been recognized as model barangays. They have received awards and have become favorite training grounds, locally, nationally and internationally.
(5) The barangay officials have become computer literate. Having learned how to make powerpoint presentations and other computer applications such as Excel, Word, and Internet (Google search) and enhanced their communication skills.
Pegging success on nutrition
If it is to become the indicator of the program’s success, the nutrition component of Bidani must be highlighted. In its early years of implementation, the nutrition component was weak since Bidani did not offer any direct interventions. Thus, in 1994, the Participative Domiciliary Nutrition Rehabilitation (PDNR) was launched as an individualized and family-focused approach to rehabilitate and/or prevent malnutrition among children 0-36 months of age and to promote improved nutrition.
PDNR reinforced the partnership and joint responsibility of the parents, the community, government line agencies and GOs with technical support from the SUCs. The PDNR also reinforced the nutrition-related activities of the government such as the Comprehensive Health and Nutrition Program of the Department of Health (DOH), the Supplemental Feeding Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Department of Education (DepEd).
Through this strategy, malnutrition has been reduced in Bidani covered barangays with 17 percent of the 1,387 children (0-36 months) rehabilitated to normal status after six months. Based on data covered by the seven member SUCs from 1996-2000 like CMU, UPV, BU, ISU, CLSU, VSU and UPLB as the National Coordinator, reduction of malnutrition prevalence from the covered villages such that 82 percent or 8 out of 10 children were rehabilitated and/or improved to a higher nutritional classification after 12 months. There was also a significant increase of families involved in food production, mainly backyard gardening and animal husbandry.
Then in 2009, PNEA was conceptualized and implemented for a more comprehensive and participative approach in the delivery of nutrition and health services. It aims to rehabilitate and prevent the occurrence of malnutrition among 0-24 month old children through life cycle approach. Nutrition is crucial in human development and in reaching one’s potential. A compromised nutritional status even at the age of conception has a bearing on an individual’s nutritional status later in life.
PNEA offers an integrated nutrition enhancement package to ensure that LGUs and other partners would be able to deliver nutrition services effectively to achieve a healthy and well-nourished community. The approach provides technical assistance in facilitating the implementation of the national nutrition program at the local level and strengthening the skills of health providers (MHO, MNAO, BNS, BHW, midwives, peers, etc.) on health and nutrition development activities. PNEA also encourages participation of local stakeholders in health and nutrition activities.
The promotion and utilization of Kalinga mix (adopted from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute as Insumix) as the main food-based supplementary feeding is one of the main nutrition interventions of this strategy. Kalinga is a low cost, flour-like mixture of rice, mungbean and sesame seed. It is high in energy, protein and carbohydrates needed for optimum body growth and constant supply of energy for children to sustain their daily activities.
The information premium and Bidani’s niche
Literature on the subject report that different agencies have initiated and established local information systems. The Bidani Barangay Management Information System (BMIS) sets itself apart by helping the community establish its own sustainable databanking system to generate updated and reliable information for evidence-based planning, monitoring and evaluation of development activities at the barangay and municipal levels.
The BMIS and Municipal Management Information System (MMIS), which is the consolidation of all the BMIS of the municipality, are electronic systems which help synergize barangay and municipal development goals and activities.
Through the BMIS and MMIS electronic systems, the LGUs can also generate information for: the administrative reports requested by different agencies such as the local governance performance management system (LGPMS); situational analysis in the preparation of municipal/city development plans (CDPs) such as comprehensive land use plans (CLUPs); providing basis for the barangay development plan or financial plan; facilitating delivery of services to target beneficiaries; and monitoring and evaluation of projects.
The BMIS survey form is a two-page questionnaire which can generate about 100 tables and reports on the socio-demographic, economic, agriculture, health and nutrition information of the family and its members. Some of the statistical reports generated are population, working age groups, income and poverty levels, school enrolment rates, civil statuses, religious membership, sources of income, overseas Filipino workers population, and PWD population. Data also include nutritional statuses of 0-6-year olds, and statuses of immunization, deworming, vitamin and micronutrient supplementation, and breastfeeding of 0-24 month old children. Causes of mortality and morbidity, family planning practices, access to sanitary toilet, potable water, garbage disposal practices, engagement in food production activities are indicated. The BMIS/MMIS electronic systems can also generate a list of families or members needing assistance, such as those out of school. A unique feature of the BMIS is the integration and prioritization of nutrition data in the system. It relates nutritional status to the social, economic and environmental problem of a specific child.
The BMIS builds the capacity of the barangay to conduct a proper survey. Each step is designed to be sustainable, participatory, and specific for barangay council members so that they will have a sense of ownership of the activity. It is characterized by simple, user-friendly design flexible enough to accommodate any necessary modification.
Of the more than 1,024 barangays trained on BMIS, about 70 percent are continuing their BMIS.
On the road toward greater reach and relevance
To date, the Bidani Network Program is continuing as a member of the Inter-agency Technical Committee of the National Nutrition Council. The achievements of Bidani are contributory to the attainment of the goals of the Philippine Development Plan and the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition.
Other major notable achievements in nutrition of the Bidani Network Program from 1978 to 2007 are the following:
• Bidani has been integrated into the Accelerated Nutrition Act which seeks to strengthen the implementation of the National Nutrition Program of which Bidani is one of the enabling mechanisms to promote a healthy and productive citizenry.
• Bidani was integrated in the Medium Term Philippine Food and Nutrition Program/Philippine Plan of Action (MTPPAN) from 1993-1998, 1999-2004, and 2005-2010 where Bidani strategy was incorporated as one of the enabling mechanisms to promote nutritional status of the Filipinos. MTPPAN is the country’s blueprint of action for achieving nutritional adequacy for all Filipinos and the government’s response to global commitment to eradicate hunger and malnutrition.
At the national level, Bidani as a strategy is recognized by the National Nutrition Council, the highest policy making and coordinating body in nutrition, as an enabling mechanism in integrating nutrition into the local development plan.
It has also received an endorsement from the Commission on Higher Education as a regular extension project of participating SUCs all over the country.
The need for institutionalization
As a program, Bidani will continue as long as it plays an important role in local and national development. However, it needs the continuous training and technical backstopping of SUCs and partner LGUs. At the national level it needs a legal mandate for the SUCs to be able to regularly allocate a portion of the research and extension budget for the Bidani program to support its key staff/personnel and maintenance, operating and other expenses.
While many LGUs were very receptive and had expressed willingness to promote Bidani as a strategy despite budgetary constraints, Bidani needs a regular budget allocation for extension and research for its expansion, replication and institutionalization. Faculty members who are involved in Bidani are given equivalent credit unit loads. However, because the degree of operationalization and continuity at the SUC level will greatly depend on the policy commitment of each SUCs central administration, without full time staff and personnel to conduct the training and technical backstopping at the local level, the sustainability of the program is not assured.
Bidani continues to pursue activities towards institutionalization at municipal and village levels, strengthening operations research, training of trainers, documentation, publications of research and training manuals. Through the continued support from the national government, by way of regular provision of budget for its operationalization, key member SUCS in the network, Bidani remains to be a laudable nutrition-in-development program of academic institutions.
Bidani at the national and public service university
UP is mandated to lead as a public service university by providing various forms of community, public and volunteer service, as well as scholarly and technical assistance to the government, the private sector, and civil society while maintaining its standards of excellence.” Since Bidani’s inception in 1978, it has lived up to its name of an integrated development approach to address malnutrition problem in the country through capacity building of local government units, establishing and strengthening community-based organizations, and participatory development planning at the community-level for nutrition improvement and rural development. Bidani has fulfilled UP’s mandate to lead other higher educational institutions in the areas of teaching, research, and, at its core, public service.
Public service is not an easy task. Bidani as a research-driven public service carried out by higher educational institutions needs to meet the challenges it is facing now and in the future for it to continue. It is steadfast in its commitment to take the frontline in the continuing fight to minimize if not totally eliminate hunger and malnutrition.
The UPLB-Bidani or the Bidani Network Program has Ms. Lorna O. Garcia as program leader. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eusebio, Josefa S. “Framework for Research and Extension in the College of Human Ecology,” June 16, 2000.
UPLB-BIDANI. Accomplishment Report. April 1990-September 1994.
Eusebio, Josefa. “BIDANI: A Nutrition-in-Development Model of Academic Institutions in Partnership with Local Governments,” Proceedings of the First BIDANI Asian Regional Conference. 28-30 September 1995.