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12.09.2012 - 09.10.2012

Making agriculture work for nutrition: Prioritizing country-level action, research and support

Dear Members,

There is now considerable interest among international development organizations and practitioners in agriculture programming and policy to improve nutrition.
A recent “Synthesis of Guiding Principles on Agriculture Programming for Nutrition” has highlighted the increasing number of international development institutions formally weighing in on the topic – and found that the key messages are often similar.  The synthesis identifies 20 principles independently voiced by multiple institutions for planning, implementing, and supporting nutrition-sensitive agriculture, as well as a number of gaps that limit action on these principles.
Building on the earlier FSN forum debate “Linking Agriculture, Food Systems, and Nutrition: What’s your perspective?” and the synthesis, the objective of this discussion is to distill and prioritize actions needed at country-level, research gaps, and support needed out of the substantial international dialogue on improving nutrition through food and agriculture.  
What are the main approaches we collectively see as most important?  What are some practical recommendations that can more effectively promote, support, and guarantee the integration of nutrition into agriculture and food security investments?  What research is needed?  

This discussion is timed strategically before several influential meetings involving agriculture-nutrition linkages and your contributions will be made available at and incorporated into upcoming nutrition and agriculture-related meetings, such as the SUN, CFS (Committee on World Food Security), GCARD (Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development), and CAADP Nutrition Workshop (Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme).  Participation in this discussion will allow your voice to be heard at these agenda-setting events.


Based on your own knowledge and experience in the area of improving nutrition through food and agriculture programmes:

1. If you were designing an agricultural investment programme, what are the top 5 things you would do to maximize its impact on nutrition?

2. To support the design and implementation of this programme, where would you like to see more research done, and why?

3. What can our institutions do to help country governments commit to action around your recommendations, and to help ensure implementation will be effective?

As you answer each of these questions, please share practical insights, evidence, and anecdotes from your personal experience researching, implementing, or advocating.

We thank you in advance for the time and thought you contribute to responding – time well-spent, we believe, for the influence your comments will have.

Anna Herforth (consultant to World Bank and FAO)
Cristina Lopriore (member of the EU Nutrition Advisory Services, facilitating in her own personal capacity)

This discussion is now closed. Please contact for any further information.

Angela Kimani FAO, Kenya

Based on your own knowledge and experience in the area of improving nutrition through food and agriculture programmes:

1.    If you were designing an agricultural investment programme, what are the top 5 things you would do to maximize its impact on nutrition?

Some of the main items to be done:

  • Ensure the overall objective and the goals of the programme touches on nutrition,
  • Ensure the problem statement identifies a nutrition problem that it want to contribute towards,
  • Ensure there is at least one specific objective on nutrition. The objective should be SMART.
  • Ensure there are specific / clear activities on nutrition that are indicated in the work plan. The activities should also have specific outputs,
  • Ensure there are clear budget  lines for the nutrition activities and human resource,

2.    To support the design and implementation of this programme, where would you like to see more research done, and why?

  • There is need to link the ALREADY done agricultural research to nutrition. The bigger challenge is that most agricultural research done does not (yet) directly benefit the small scale farmers, while they contribute a significant amount in food production all over the world. It may be benefiting the large scale farmers, or sitting in shelves. There is need to translate the successful researches into a language that rural small scale farmers understand and can implement.
  • There is need to support the production of traditional crops, including vegetables. I know this has already been echoed many times, but there is need to practically implement this at community level.
  • Nutrition education is another area that needs research. Which are the best ways of communicating and successful implementation of Behaviour Change Communication? Especially in food choices, cultural factors affecting food consumption etc
  • In pastoral regions, there is need for strong research in the traditional milk and meat preservation techniques that are safe and acceptable, to be used in different regions. This is a grey area, that needs specific clarifications to assist in implementation of livestock programs that have an end objective of improving food security and nutrition- this has been a clear gap even in the horn of Africa, and has been raised severally.

3.    What can our institutions do to help country governments commit to action around your recommendations, and to help ensure implementation will be effective?

  • There is need to build nutrition capacity in agricultural institutions. (so that nutrition is no longer seen as a ‘health’issue, but also an agricultural and food security issue),
  • Support development of ag-nutrition specific tools (e.g food consumption tools) that will assist the agriculture sector ‘understand’ what improved nutrition means in an agricultural setting,
  • Disseminate these tools as well as guidelines.
  • Share case studies of where these have been done and lessons learnt/ recommendations for further improvement. This will give the country governments more confidence in linking agriculture to nutrition,
  • Ensure agriculture-nutrition linkages are well embedded in country processes and policies e.g caadp, food and nutrition security papers and legislation.

Angela Kimani

FAO- Sub-Regional Emergency Office for Eastern and Central Africa
United Nations Office, UN Avenue, Gigiri, 2nd level, Block P
P.O. Box 30470-00100;  Nairobi, Kenya

Ms. Dianna DaSilva- Glasgow University of Guyana , Guyana

I think the comments so far have all been great. I believe it is important to match production with consumption. Therefore the first (1)  thing that I would suggest is a stocktaking of the situation in the country with regards to nutrition and henceforth seek to identify gaps, what are we eating too much of or what aren't we eating in sufficient quantities? How wholesome is what we are eating? Are we producing the foods that are necessary to guarantee minimum levels of nutrition?. (2) I would also suggest that investment programmes be more crop or area specific so that we try to increase production of certain foods, emphasizing quality by supporting organic production; and we assess the difference in nutrition levels among various localities and try to support increased production and processing in foods where nutrition levels are currently at undesriable levels. Additionally, (3) I would support environmentally sustainable practices as this can aid in improving food quality and the productivity of land resources. (4) I would also support a social assessment of the nutrition situation of the country and encourage targeting of vulnerable social fragements of society, such as single-parent homes, early school levels for increased support for production activities. (5) Education is a major factor supporting nutrition. People making consumption decisions not only on their access to and capabilities to purchase food but also based on norms established by fore-parents etc. For instance, in Guyana  put a lot of coconut milk in certain foods but coconut milk is high in cholesterol. We also put sugar in just about every food that we cook, which increases our daily consumption of sugar.


Gladson Makowa Story Workshop, Malawi
Gladson Makowa

1. If you were designing an agricultural investment programme, what are the top 5 things you would do to maximize its impact on nutrition?

1. promotion of indigenous knowledge and orphan crops would help. Most orphan crops have advantages over the ones which are being promoted now.

2. understanding the current status, advantages and utilizing it. In Malawi for example we have many goats which can provide milk to children and women to improve nutrition.

3. Behaviour change communication intensification. People need to know advantages of many orphan crops, goats milk, insects, mice and other foods. In Malawi people have little reliesh and plenty of starch on their meals, a habit that need to change and improve. 

4. Legumes which provide nutritous food are a major source of income now that tobacco has no future. The conflict will be bigger now than ever before. There is a need to come up with more viable cash crops and utilize legumes as food.

5. Organic farming. Farmers discovered that applying manure twice work well in the same way chemical fertilizer does in maize. There is a need to encouge better manure making innovations, to reduce starvation, or low yield of maize, the major food crop.

Mr. Paul von Hartmann California Cannabis Ministry, United States of America


1. If you were designing an agricultural investment programme, what are the top 5 things you would do to maximize its impact on nutrition?

Objectively assess the unique and essential nutritional profile of the whole Cannabis plant, without prejudice against the cultivation of "industrial hemp" strains. See for more information about why Cannabis is in fact a "dietary essential."

2. To support the design and implementation of this programme, where would you like to see more research done, and why?

Research is needed to determine which lands are available for phytoremediation and for expanding the arable base, using highly adaptable and industrially useful pioneers crops inclusive of Cannabis.

3. What can our institutions do to help country governments commit to action around your recommendations, and to help ensure implementation will be effective?

Officially recognize the impact that current drug policy has had on food security and nutrition.

Salomeyesudas . Nalla Kerai ( Good Greens) Executive Director , India

Dear Friends

We can make agriculture work for nutrition if we allow the practice of ecological agriculture to continue because of the bonus of uncultivated food we get from these farms will definitely answer some of the worst nutritional deficiency disorders.  

Dry land Millet  farmers’ treasured their knowledge about their resources, about their ecological agriculture, about their well being, about their living interface with nature and passed on to generation to  generation.
If we closely understand we find that a very important component of millet cultivation is it’s embedded biodiversity. On their lands one cold see that s and millets stand next to pulses and pulses stand next to oilseeds and oilseeds stand next to vegetable. As a combination, millets, pulses, oilseeds and vegetables made a perfect combination of completely nutritious meal possible in the lives of the dry land people without having to spend a single paisa on outside food purchases.
Astonishingly within this gamete of ecological agriculture there is the issue of uncultivated foods which are also called as wild greens by people and designated as weeds by scientists.
It is a kind of ecological agriculture pattern that sustains uncultivated foods. Certain crops in certain seasons in certain agriculture fashion allow lot of greens to come up on their lands without consciously cultivating them.
Addition of farmyard manure enhances the growth of these multipurpose greens on their lands. Light wooden ploughing will allow the delicate seed to be preserved and germinated easily where as hard tractor ploughing may destroy them.
Same way application of chemical fertilizers hardness the soil and germination of these delicious delicate seeds may not happen easily and application of pesticides completely makes them non edible as the pesticide directly falls and settles on these greens.    
To enjoy the greens as food, fodder and medicine the dry land Millet farmers always kept themselves away from these chemicals. The embedded uncultivated foods are always handy to women on their every visit to farm.
Thank you

Dr. Violet Kadenyeka Mugalavai Chepkoilel University College, Kenya
Violet Kadenyeka


I wish to contribute to this interesting topic.

  1. If you were designing an agricultural investment programme, what are the top 5 things you would do to maximize its impact on nutrition?
    It is important to make sure that all the livelihood resources are available, accessed and controlled by both gender, and in sustainable.
    Achieving food diversity by reviving orphan crops and developing models for nutrition sensitization,  education and recipe development. This will work well through community women groups and schools especially targeting the girl child.
  2. To support the design and implementation of this programme, where would you like to see more research done, and why?
    Participatory projects are more appropriate than deep scientific research, which is already available and should be implemented. Climate smart, eco-effective and interactive livelihood groups can work together to implement good practices.
  3. What can our institutions do to help country governments commit to action around your recommendations, and to help ensure implementation will be effective?
    Our governments need to build and develop capacities of communities through devolved mechanisms so that resources and skilled experts reach the poor at the grassroots.
Mr. Rwakakamba Morrison Agency for Transformation, Uganda

Dear Moderator, for the case of Uganda,

For effective investment, I would look at the following;

  1. For example, in 2008, Uganda crafted a Food and Nutrition Security policy that details practical interventions for arresting food insecurity, undernourishment and over nourishment. It will be interesting to audit the state of policy implementation. As far as I can recall, there was a clash of mandate on which ministry was to take lead in implementation- i.e. The Ministry of Health or The Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries? Was it resolved? Is implementation process on rail? Are we achieving results?
  2. The other aspect is about education and information on nutrition. Are households (rural, peri-urban and urban) exposed to ferment of information on nutrition? Take the example of Bushenyi district in western Uganda-  it is one of the highest milk producers in Uganda  with the highest level of undernourished children! Reason? All milk is sold out and less /none is left for children. Can we strike a balance between what goes to the market and what is served on the table?
  3. Related to the above- with information and little bit of nudging from local authorities- surely every household in Uganda- save for slum-urban dwellers can have a small kitchen/back yard garden of vegetables/ fruits etc. Its’ possible to have this culture here? Yes- it is possible if we invest in information and efficacy of local governments.
  4. Uganda should put in place- a one milk cow for every household policy. Why?  One-Milk will be available for families.  Two- Manure (compost) to make other crops (variety) work. The contention is on the right breed and balancing inputs and outputs and context of a given household.
  5. Make fortified and drought resistant seeds accessible for areas facing undernourishment and stunted children in Uganda (drought prone and conflict areas).

Morrison Rwakakamba
Chief Executive Officer
Agency for Transformation (AfT)

Dr. Martine Rutten LEI-Wageningen UR, Netherlands

If you were designing an agricultural investment programme, what are the top 5 things you would do to maximize its impact on nutrition?
1. I would first look at the population and its characteristics in terms of gender, age, disease burden so as to identify nutrition needs. I would also consider socio-economic status as that in the end determines whether there’s a market and whether government involvement is needed;
2. I would then look at the agricultural production capacity of the country, given the political context, trade context, climate, environment …and other potential factors that predetermine the feasibility of the particular investment that is considered;
3. I would make sure that part of the investment is channelled to reducing food waste along the food supply chain from producers, to consumers, in transport, and the various stages in between;
4. I would invest in education programmes, television commercials etc. that would show how the food item in question is good for you, and how it should be consumed to maximise its impact;
5. I would pay attention to price developments (in view of the strong food price volatility observed in the last couple of years and the impacts this has on producers and consumers) and invest in storage facilities so as to avoid food going to waste.

To support the design and implementation of this programme, where would you like to see more research done, and why?
1. More research is needed in the area of food waste, where it appears and to what extent, how it can be reduced or prevented altogether. There’s limited data on global food waste and so little research done on potential impacts if we were to reduce it;
2. More research is needed in the area of interrelationships between agriculture, nutrition and health and economy-wide impacts and feedback effects (healthier labour force that is able to work longer and more productively, lower health care costs, improved well-being). This is largely due to these sciences operating largely independently from each other. It is changing, but slowly. Important questions are:
a. What are impacts of changes in trade policies in bilateral or multilateral context or other economic policies and/or shocks on nutrition and health? Are there tradeoffs (e.g. between potential economic gains/losses and health gains/losses) and how do we deal with those?
b. Or vice versa, if we were to eat healthily, what would this imply for our agriculture/production system? Trade? And again what are the economy -wide impacts?
3. More research is needed in the area of food and nutrition security in relation to food price volatility
4. More research is needed in the role of women in securing household food and nutrition security

What can our institutions do to help country governments commit to action around your recommendations, and to help ensure implementation will be effective?

1. It should provide a platform for all stakeholders and stimulate them to come together and push for ways forward
2. Provide technical assistance where needed
3. Make available statistics on food and especially nutrition security for use in research

Christine Andela Cameroon
Christine Andela

Je commencerai par dire que mon expérience de terrain me permet d'affirmer que dans les pays d'Afrique subsaharienne et particulièrement au Cameroun, le lien n'est pas fait de façon claire entre l'agriculture et la nutrition.
Sur le plan institutionnel, l'agriculture est rattachée au ministère de l'agriculture tandis que la nutrition relève du Ministère de la santé .
Cette organisation administrative n'est pas anodine; en effet, la nutrition est évoquée généralement en terme de "carences" et donc d'apports nutritionnels , et la solution aux problèmes de nutrition semblent relever de thérapie beaucoup plus de "politiques d'investissement dans l'agriculture" .
Si donc je devais élaborer un programme d'investissement agricole, les 5 principales mesures que j'adopterais pour en maximiser l'impact sur la nutrition seraient:
1. une vision de l'agriculture axée sur l'homme, son alimentation pour être en bonne santé et respectueuse de l'environnement promotion et la protection de l'agriculture familiale paysanne
3. des modes de production à faible utilisation de fertilisants et pesticides chimiques
4. l'accompagnement des petits producteurs et productrices en matière de production d'engrais vert valorisation des marchés de proximité
Les domaines de recherche à intensifier pour cela:
- les modes de consommation des ménages
- les modes de production
- les modes de vie des populations d'une communauté donnée (locale, nationale)
- l'impact des prix des denrées agricoles sur la consommation et la nutrition
Ce que les institutions peuvent faire au niveau des pays:
- s'assurer que les pays respectent leurs engagements sur la nutrition et la sécurité alimentaire et en matière de financement de l'agriculture: les y accompagner
- promouvoir la collaboration entre tous les acteurs impliqués dans les actions de sécurité alimentaire et de nutrition
- être transparent en matière ce conseils donnés aux gouvernements en matière de programmes agricoles en communiquant sur les orientations proposées et en les mettant en débat parmi tous les acteurs

Kazi Eliza Islam Heifer International, United States of America
Kazi Eliza Islam

Dear Facilitators,

Thanks for brining this extremely important and timely issue for discuusion. With the growing need for feeding more people around the world,coupled with effect of climate change and natural disasters, agriculture sector is becoming extremely important to address food security and nutrition issues accross the world. Though the theoretical relationship between agriculture, food security and nutrition is well recognized by the development community, the linkages between these 3 are often weak or even do not exist in practice. There are several reasons why agriculture fails to demonstrate optimum benefits to improve nutrition. I am trying to highlight some of those below with possible soulutions:

(1) First of all there is a huge communitation gap between academicians, researchers and practitioners. There are ample of evidences that demonstrate the positive relationship betgween agruiculture, food security and nutrition, but very few attempt has made to translate those into practice, making sure that those knowledge are being used during, design implementation and monitoring evaluation of ariculture projects/programs. In many many cases, practitioners are not even aware of the body of knowledge available in this sector or the various pathways that can link agricuture to improve nutrition.

(2) In many cases agriculture projects are heavily focused on increasing production and productivity while totally ignoring the social and cultural factors that prevent some vlunerable and marginaliged groups (especially women and children) to be fully benefitted from increased production and productivity

(3) Due to lack of awareness or in some cases lack of political committememt, agricultiure projects often are not designed with a nutrtion objective in mind. In some cases even if it does have a nutrition objective, due to limited understanding about the relationship between agriculture and nutrition and/or the overall complexity and undrerlying causes of malnutrtion, the proejct fails to take a holistic approach, that in turn fails to significanlty contribute to nutrition. On top of these, due to lack of proper handling, processing,and storage,in many cases the nutritive value of crops, vegetables, milk or milk products are diminished or lost.

(4) The monitoring and evaluation system of agriculture projects/program often do not have appropriate or adequate indicators to capture and demonstrate projects's contribution to food security and nutrition.

So some of my suggestions would be to include:

(1) Strenghten collaborations, communications and coordinations between researchers and practitioner, policy makers in agriculture, food and nutrition sectors

(2) Design agriculture projects with nutrition objectives and include some essential direct nutrition interventions such as nutrition education with especial focus on infant and young child feeding, promoting appropriate health hygiene and nutrition behaviour and practices, production of vitamin and minerals rich crops and vegetables, etc either through adding direct interventions or by linking agriculture projects with existing government or others health and nutrition projects/programs

(3) Design and implement monitoring and evaluation system of agriculture projects to capture nutrtion benefits (include and operationalize appropriate food security and nutrition indicators)

(4) Take into consideration of social and cultural factors, address issues around social exclusions/discriminations, and promote women empowerment to achieve sustainable and larger impact especially on women and child nutrition.