Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Dear members,

Taking this opportunity, I would like to say thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts for our on- line discussion on the current burning issue “Integrating nutrition into the curricula of agriculture education institutions: Strengthening human capacity to promote nutrition-sensitive agriculture” as one of the nutrition sensitive intervention for the reduction of double burden of malnutrition in our globe. 

In my opinion, the discussion was fruitful. The discussion forum brought about 31 professionals (agricultural university lecturers, project managers, consultants and researchers) from 17 countries around the world on one table to discuss and share their experience on how to integrate nutrition in to the curricula of agricultural education.

 If I am not mistaken, all participants of the discussion agreed synonymously that integration of nutrition in to agriculture curriculum is a timely agenda and fully justifiable.  This tells me that how much the issue we have been discussed for about two weeks is relevant and the UN agencies particularly FAO will have its homework to bring the issue to the attention of policy makers and politicians.

Though all participants agreed with the basic ideas, modalities or things to be considered on how to integrate nutrition in to curricula of agriculture education were forwarded as a concern. As a concluding remark of the discussion, I have tried to summarize ideas forwarded from participants based on leading questions as follows:

1.       Role of Agriculture college: Agricultural colleges/higher institutions can play an important role in promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture through several mechanisms:

  • Provide a key entry point where nutrition-sensitive agriculture can be incorporated into curricula agricultural education
  • Designing programs that incorporate nutrition interventions tailored to goals and outcomes to reduce prevalence of malnutrition
  • Support nutrition-sensitive interventions through the training of agricultural extension agents which they are currently serving the community
  • Agricultural colleges are also critical institutions whereby nutrition-sensitive agricultural approaches can be integrated into multiple programs and disciplines and facilitate collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and projects.
  • Agricultural colleges are also capable of promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture through policy-relevant research, dissemination of results, and rigorous impact evaluations
  • Create enabling environment to the agriculture sector to design nutrition-sensitive agriculture strategy to be incorporated into existing agricultural policies and extension systems.

2.       What is meant by “integrating nutrition into the curriculum”?

  • When we say “integration” it does not mean that we are focusing only on distribution of nutrition core competencies across existing core subjects rather we better work to bring nutrition as a separate course for agricultural graduates. But until condition allows to bring nutrition as a separate course for agricultural students, it is also advisable to start by stream lining nutrition core competencies across existing core subjects of the existing agricultural curriculum.

3.       What are the absolutely essential competencies of "nutrition" to include in the training of agricultural workers?

  • The anticipated nutrition syllabus  for agriculture students is better to address knowledge, skill and attitude competency  domains
  • Its content should be designed with practical knowledge and hands-on training specifically suited to students so they know how to produce and access nutritious foods, improve eating behavior, enhance nutritional status and prevent chronic diseases with better nutrition and food consumption
  • It should be developed through careful synchronization with the notion of meeting the nutritional knowledge gaps of agricultural college graduates in order to contribute to improve nutrition outcomes in the community
  • Contents of teaching curricular be country or region-specific depending on the nation nutrition strategy
  • The curriculum to contain detailed information on all stages of the nutritional chain: food production, processing, storage, preparation, to consumption.

4.       What is expected to result from this extra curriculum element? Or how do we expect graduates (i.e. agricultural workers) to use the new knowledge and skills in their daily work?

  • Integrating nutrition core competencies with undergraduate agricultural programs will not only have the highest potential to promote nutrition-sensitive production at the community level, but also to increase the effort of the agriculture sector—which is imperative to contribute to the national nutrition agenda.

5.       Other consideration

  • Relevant stakeholders should be consulted and be active participants during  identification of nutrition core competencies as well integration of nutrition in to the curricula of agriculture education
  • Integration of nutrition in to the curricula of agriculture education should be in line with the national nutrition strategy
  • In the rural communities, the community-based informal education and curriculum-based formal education are two intersecting knowledge spheres, which can become important components to increase food literacy
  • It is also important that curricula/syllabi at all level of education from primary through secondary and tertiary level (s) should be sensitized with the lenses of nutrition.
  • Farmer Field Schools approach of FAO  can be  used to promote nutrition sensitive agriculture in the farming community

Hope we all will receive the final proceedings from the global forum on food security and nutrition team in the near future. We encourage you to keep checking the resource section of this discussion for any updates.

Many thanks,

Mebit Kebede