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Re: Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems

Domitille Kauffmann and Charlotte Dufour FAO Nutrition Division, Italy

Thank you very much to the facilitators for a very interesting discussion and for all these rich contributions. It seems that one elements has not been addressed so much in this discussion is how nutrition-sensitive agriculture can play a key role in addressing food and nutrition security of populations affected by protracted crises and in strengthening resilience to shocks. (thus making a link between this FSN Forum discussion and the previous one on food security in protracted crises – you may also be interested by the following paper on Nutrition in Protracted Crises: ).

This is an important issue because the highest rates of malnutrition are reported in highly crisis-affected areas, such as in Sahel and in the Horn of Africa, and severe food and nutrition crises are happening with greater frequency. A “nutrition-sensitive” development agenda (and thus nutrition-sensitive agriculture) must, therefore, take into consideration exposure to food-related shocks and threats and to the issue of resilience.  

Both resilience and nutrition have recently benefitted from growing attention and strong political momentum, and there is a growing body of work on resilience programming at a conceptual and operational level. Agriculture is essential to both, and there is increasing interest in the role of agriculture in resilience programming on one hand, and on linkages between nutrition and resilience on the other. But there has been little literature, to date, on the nexus between nutrition, agriculture and resilience. FAO is therefore preparing an issues paper on linkages between nutrition and resilience, and the role of agriculture in that relationship.

This paper describes how nutrition and resilience are obviously strongly inter-linked: fighting malnutrition is crucial to resilience-strengthening because well-nourished individuals are healthier, can work harder, and have greater physical reserves. Households that are nutrition secure are better able to withstand external shocks. Moreover, adopting a resilience perspective allows an emphasis on the structural vulnerabilities that underlie malnutrition, the root causes of nutrition and food insecurity, and offers thus an opportunity to strengthen preventive activities. This further implies treating and preventing malnutrition through a combination of short and long-term nutrition actions, including nutrition-sensitive agricultural interventions.

Using the FAO resilience framework, which is adapted from the Hyogo Framework for Action (see page 20 of the FAO Resilience Livelihoods programme framework -, the paper identifies entry points for maximizing nutritional outcomes of food and agriculture interventions designed to improve resilience, and vice versa, improve the “resilience outcomes” of food and agriculture-based interventions.

The following are just some of the entry points and recommendations that are identified, for each of the four pillars of the FAO resilience framework:

Pillar 1: Enabling the environment:

  • Support linkages and synergies between food and nutrition security policies & strategies and resilience/DRM planning. Food and agriculture interventions contribute to both sets of strategies and can help clarify concrete synergies at the implementation level.
  • Enhance linkages between resilience-related coordination structures and food and nutrition security coordination mechanisms (which include nutrition-sensitive agriculture), especially linking development-oriented coordination initiatives such as SUN and REACH to more emergency-related coordination bodies such as Nutrition and Food Security clusters, at national, regional and global levels.
  • Develop capacities for resilience planning with a nutrition lens (ensuring resilience planning addresses the underlying causes of malnutrition and includes nutrition-sensitive agriculture as relevant), and nutrition planning with a resilience lens (i.e. looking both at treatment and prevention, and includes nutrition-sensitive agriculture as relevant).
  • Strengthen and further develop flexible funding mechanisms adapted to a resilience approach, combining support to short and long-term interventions and linking humanitarian and development activities and multi-sectoral strategies. 

Pillar 2: Watch to safeguard (early warning)

  • Advocate for the use of diet-related coping strategies are early indicators of pending crisis.
  • Consider nutritional status (especially stunting) as an indicator of the erosion of people’s resilience and of greater vulnerability, to inform food and nutrition security planning.

Pillar 3 : Apply disaster risk reduction / prevention and pillar 4: Prepare and respond

  • Use nutrition causal analysis as a planning tool for integrated food and nutrition security programming as part of a preventive approach and emergency response, and for selecting key interventions by livelihoods groups.
  • Use nutrition indicators including stunting data to inform targeting strategies for resilience-building and food and agriculture interventions as this helps focus on populations / individuals at risk.
  • Make nutrition an explicit objective of resilience programmes and vice versa to guide people to reflect on the linkages and impact that their activities have on nutrition.
  • Promote diversification of food intake and livelihoods as key preventive approach for both nutrition and resilience programmes.
  • Include nutrition education in all programmes as means of empowering households to use resources optimally for Food and Nutrition Security and thus increase resilience
  • Link agriculture to social protection programmes in other sectors designed to protect nutrition

Work on this paper is still ongoing, but it will be available shortly and is intended contribute to discussions for the technical preparation of the ICN2. We will share it with FSN members when ready!

Best regards,

Domitille Kauffmann and Charlotte Dufour, FAO Nutrition Division.