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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Transforming gender relations in agriculture through women’s empowerment: benefits, challenges and trade-offs for improving nutrition outcomes

Ramani Wijesinha-Bettoni

Hello, re. the questions, especially Q2, I would like to bring two hopefully useful sources to your attention:  

 

1.       FAO just finished a 5-year research and advocacy initiative (the IMCF project, http://www.fao.org/nutrition/education/infant-and-young-child-feeding/en/), whose aim was to explore the relationship between agricultural diversification, food security and nutrition education and nutritional outcomes of young children. The project assessed at community level the impact on young children’s diets and nutritional status of linking agriculture and nutrition education.  The research was carried out in Cambodia and Malawi, by following two FAO food security projects which added on a nutrition education component. The research component was led by Justus Liebig University, Germany, in collaboration with Mahidol University in Thailand for the Cambodia project and Lilongwe University in Malawi.

The lessons learned have been compiled into a document, which includes the experiences of other UN organizations, NGOs and academic institutions doing similar work. The resultant document is meant for programme planners and managers working to ensure that agricultural production and raised incomes have a greater chance of being translated into improved nutrition outcomes for families in low-income countries, with a specific focus on improving the nutrition of children aged 6–23 months. (http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/nutrition/docs/education/infant_feeding/Programme_Lessons.pdf)

I would like to highlight one point from the above programme lessons, which I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned yet on the forum. In order to see nutrition outcomes, projects will need to target families with young children. The FAO projects found that despite best efforts, the overlap between households that received the food security intervention and those receiving the nutrition education component was very low. Targeting in both Cambodia and Malawi projects focused on households that are traditionally eligible for agricultural support, i.e. male farmers, established female farmers or male and female members of farmers’ cooperatives. So families with young children were not automatically included. Despite being a FS project, availability and access to nutritious, affordable foods remained a major constraint for adequate complementary feeding practices, highlighting the urgent need for food systems diversification.

2.       A  paper we (FAO nutrition education group) wrote a few years ago: Wijesinha-Bettoni R., Kennedy G., Dirorimwe C. & Muehlhoff E. (2013) Considering Seasonal Variations in Food Availability and Caring Capacity when Planning Complementary Feeding Interventions in Developing Countries. International Journal of Child Health and Nutrition, 2, (4), 335–352. It looked at how seasonal pressure on women’s time negatively impacts cooking and caring practices and intra-family food distribution (in addition to looking at the impact on seasonal food availability). The paper was based on experiences from FAO food and nutrition security projects in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Laos and Zambia which began with formative research using Trials of Improved Practices. In the discussion, some practical ideas for incorporating coping strategies for dealing with seasonal effects when planning such food and nutrition security interventions are presented.

Best wishes,

Ramani