Incorporating Nutrition Considerations into Agricultural Research Plans and Programmes

Table of contents

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Table Of Contents





How the Guidelines will Support Agricultural Research to Improve the Nutritional Situation of Vulnerable Rural Communities

Discipline-Specific Guidelines for the Agriculture Sector


Research planners and managers

Agricultural research workers

Extension managers and workers

Gender Issues for Consideration by all Disciplines

Implementing the Guidelines



FOOD INSECURITY AND MALNUTRITION AFFLICT A VERY LARGE number of people in developing countries despite the world community's expressed intent to wipe out hunger. Today about 790 million people do not have enough food to eat. The International Conference on Nutrition (ICN) in 1992 and the World Food Summit (WFS) of 1996 deliberated on this issue and recommended that strategies be developed to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition. The WFS set a challenging goal of reducing the number of hungry people by half by the year 2015.

Nutritional status is internationally recognized as key indicator of national development, and a well-nourished, healthy workforce is a precondition for successful economic and social development. Agriculture is also a major source of income and employment for the world's poor. Thus, direct investment in improving nutritional status can have a significant pay off in raising labour productivity and incomes. National agricultural research, in its role of enhancing food production and productive capacity of a country, can benefit from information about the specific nutritional needs of populations in order to better contribute towards nutritional improvement. In effect this would contribute to developing the social capital of a country and accelerate economic development.

The purpose of these guidelines is to attract the interest of agricultural research in looking at food security in a way that is relevant to national needs for improving nutritional status. In this perspective, gender considerations need to be taken into account to promote research on agricultural systems and technology that can address the needs of women. This can enhance the important role they play in agriculture in developing countries. And it is also important because they are the child bearers and mothers who feed and care for their families. This can have the greatest impact in breaking the generational cycle of malnutrition.

In practical terms these guidelines propose ways of increasing and improving the quality of the dialogue between agricultural researchers, resource-poor farmers, nutritionists and consumers, so that research activities can be better oriented to address their food security and nutritional needs. It is hoped that this document will be successful in promoting effective dialogue and collaboration between agricultural research and those knowledgeable in nutrition, by making nutritional well-being a common goal which is attainable.

Kraisid Tontisirin • DIRECTOR
Food and Nutrition Division
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00100 Rome, Italy


THESE GUIDELINES TO INCORPORATE NUTRITION CONSIDERATIONS INTO Agricultural Research Plans and Programmes were developed by the Food and Nutrition Division of the FAO in collaboration with a number of stakeholders. They respond to needs which were expressed by member countries at the 1992 International Conference on Nutrition.

We are grateful for the opportunity to provide this publication. It has been a challenge to put together, given the inter-sectoral nature of its goals.

We appreciate the extensive and thoughtful comments received from several contributors and reviewers of earlier drafts. Particularly, we wish to thank Raymond George, retired horticulture expert from the United Kingdom, for providing a first draft of the Guidelines upon which we were able to advance this document. Thanks also to the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) Director General, Stein Bie, and his staff, for comments on the concept of developing the Guidelines.

We also wish to acknowledge the excellent research-based support provided by those who worked on the case studies that provided background for the Guidelines. This includes International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT). Thanks go specifically to IITA Director General Robert Booth and IITA staff members Augustine Okoruwa, Margaret Queen, Mpoko Bukanga; and to CIMMYT staff members Prabhu Pingali and Marianne van Dorp.

Resource Papers used in developing these guidelines were provided by the following: Crop Research Institute (CRI) of Ghana: O. B. Hemeng, K. Ahenkora, J. Asafu-Agyeyi; Southern African Centre for Co-operation in Agricultural Research (SACCAR): K. Munyinda, M. Mwala, M. Kaputo, P. Likasi, N. Mukanda, M. Ndiyoi; and Association for Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA): F. Shao.

None of this would have been possible without the input from participants at the Workshop on Incorporating Nutrition into Agricultural Research Plans and Programmes, held in Accra, Ghana on 4–6 November, 1997, and the Workshop on Incorporating Nutrition Considerations into Agricultural Research Plans and Programmes held at Midrand in Pretoria, South Africa on 20–23 April, 1999.

Valuable comments were also received from Britta Ogle of the University of Oslo. We also thank Sautav Barat who provided the original literature review. Our gratitude also goes to colleagues at FAO from the following technical Divisions for their input during the development of these Guidelines: Food and Nutrition; Plant Production and Protection; and Research, Extension and Training. Guy Nantel, FAO, provided valuable comments and input throughout the development of this document. Juliet Aphane of the Food and Nutrition Division — Planning, Assessment and Evaluation Service, had the overall responsibility for developing these Guidelines and overseeing their production.


THIS PAPER PRESENTS A SERIES OF GUIDELINES MEANT TO ENCOURAGE and assist Member Nations of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in addressing and including nutrition and health issues in their agricultural research planning and programmes. The paper explains why any nation seeking economic and social development should recognize that improving the nutrition of its population means a healthier workforce which is a vital component of any economic development plan.

The main focus of these Guidelines is resource-poor farmers and low income rural families who derive their livelihoods from agriculture, yet are often food insecure. Rural people often lack the authority and confidence to coerce the research system to address their needs.

These Guidelines have been developed in consultation with the stakeholders themselves. They take into account agronomic factors as well as gender-related issues; holistic approaches for their application; policy-level support; and institutional linkages.

The paper also offers practical suggestions for implementation of these Guidelines, which are designed specifically for four different disciplines of the agriculture sector: policy-makers, research planners and managers, agricultural research workers and extension services.