Re: Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems

Mr. Aaron Buchsbaum John Snow, Inc - SPRING Project, Estados Unidos de América

Warm thanks to Jody and to Leslie for facilitating this excellent conversation, and to the many contributors sharing critical ag-nut efforts from around the world.

As a USAID-funded global nutrition project, SPRING (Strengthening Partnerships, Research, and Innovation in Nutrition Globally) recently undertook a program-wide review of agriculture-nutrition programming under the US Government’s Feed the Future global food security strategy. This ‘Landscape Analysis’  reviewed 160+ project documents, and included stakeholder interviews and selected case studies across the 19 Feed the Future countries active in Africa (12), SE Asia (4), and Latin America and the Caribbean (3). We hope to publish the full report soon, but in the interim please see our website for the Landscape Analysis presentation.

We reviewed with pleasure Mr. Wasti’s points (7/26) around ‘orienting’ agricultural experts to the importance of nutrition. His comments on proper approaches to nutrition education in integrated programming are likewise well taken. These were among the same points that appeared to us during the Landscape Analysis process in a variety of ways, and merit further attention.   

Keeping with Mr. Wasti’s idea of ‘orientation’, we can at the same time begin to respond to the facilitators call for experience around ‘programme issues’, which certainly include the need to bring agricultural experts and nutrition experts together under a shared vision. While there is literature in the management sciences regarding program integration, there is little research that is targeted towards the development context. Thus one of SPRING’s focal points going forward, is the development and dissemination of agriculture-nutrition operations research, looking specifically at how projects themselves are meeting the agriculture-nutrition integration challenge at both field and institutional levels.

The need for further evidence, instruction, and best-practice guidance in agriculture-nutrition integration became clear during our five Agriculture and Nutrition Global Learning Exchange Events (AgN-GLEEs), which brought to light the disconnect between an understanding of what needs to  be done, versus how to effectively do it. Based on the learning needs identified during these events, we would like to highlight two particular points we’ve included in our Landscape Analysis global report (in process) that relate to the programme portion of the FSN discussion:

- Target SBCC Activities Along All The Steps Leading From Agriculture To Nutrition. General ‘nutrition education’ around what to eat and where to find vitamins is not sufficient when trying to effectively link agriculture with nutrition. SBCC strategies and messaging should center on translating the gains from specific agricultural production and related income generation into achievable health and nutrition outcomes. This requires investment in context assessments, including formative research, to identify and address barriers associated with food production, purchase, preparation, intra-household distribution and consumption patterns of all family members. There remain a large array of assumptions that growing nutritious food will necessarily lead to nutrition outcomes - when in fact all the intermediate steps leading from food production to food use (consumption, sale, storage, etc) must be explicitly considered.

- Empower Women by Building a Supportive Family and Social Environment. The nutrition community has long focused on women and children; with the push for ag-nut integration, agriculture is becoming increasingly accountable to consider women’s labor, time use, and control of productive assets. Women’s involvement in agriculture can be improved by focusing on the more profitable links of the value chain process (not just production), and their control of on- and off- farm income earned and decision-making power must be supported by social norms, formal laws, and/or behavior change initiatives. Male family members, mothers-in-law and the opinion setters and influencers in the communities and society need to be targeted with messages explaining that sharing resources and joint decision-making with women benefits the whole family and community.

We hope to continue pushing this conversation forward, and are indebted to the FSN for facilitating such a critical discussion going into the ICN2. Please visit our site for additional agriculture-nutrition material, presentations from of our AgN-GLEEs, and upcoming webinars that highlight field-based success in ag-nut programming.

Warm Regards,

- The SPRING Agriculture/Nutrition Team