Bolivia's multisectoral Zero Malnutrition Program: insights on commitment, collaboration, and capacities

Food Nutr Bull. 2011 Jun;32(2 Suppl):S70-81. doi: 10.1177/15648265110322S204.


A number of multilateral and bilateral food security and nutrition initiatives have been launched in the wake of the 2008 food crisis, many with the explicit intention of fostering country ownership, multisectoral action, and harmonization among international partners. These bear some resemblance to the failed multisectoral nutrition planning initiatives that followed the 1974 world food crisis, raising the question of whether the current initiatives are doomed to experience the same fate. This paper explores these questions in one country by focusing on the policy sustainability of Bolivia's Zero Malnutrition Program (ZM), a multisectoral initiative that appeared at its initiation to be buttressed by political support and strengthened by design features that differed in important ways from similar efforts of the 1970s. Retrospective and prospective data collected through an action research and grounded methodology revealed, however, that the real struggle in Bolivia came after ZM was launched. ZM champions made undeniable progress in the first 2 years of the program with health-sector interventions, but they underestimated the challenges of building and sustaining the commitment of high-level political leaders, mid-level bureaucrats, and local-level implementers in the majority of other sectors. These initial experiences from Bolivia hold important lessons for several global initiatives to scale up nutrition actions, which are being launched in great haste and so far have given scant attention to strategies for managing the nutrition policy process and strengthening the capacities for implementation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bolivia
  • Capacity Building*
  • Community Health Services / organization & administration
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Dietary Services / organization & administration*
  • Government Programs / organization & administration*
  • Health Plan Implementation
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control*
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Social Conditions*