Undernutrition remains one of the world’s greatest human and economic development challenges. Undernutrition comes in many forms, and is not always visible. One in four children under 5 years of age suffers from stunting, or chronic undernutrition, which is caused by diets of insufficient quality and quantity, inappropriate care and feeding practices in early life, and high rates of infectious disease. Wasting, or acute undernutrition, can be the result of seasonal changes in diets or infectious diseases. And micronutrient deficiencies are associated with a multitude of poor health and development outcomes.
Improving nutrition requires a multi-sectoral approach that brings together the health, agriculture, education, environment, water, sanitation and hygiene and social protection sectors. Food systems, defined as the production, marketing, transformation, and purchase of food, and the consumer practices, resources, and institutions involved in these processes (Global Panel 2015), can play an integral role in multiple nutritional outcomes. A functioning, healthy food system should deliver equitable consumption of a safe, affordable, diverse diet year-round. It should do so sustainably, with respect to both environmental considerations and food systems viability over the long-term, especially in the face of changing environments and the demand for foods from increasingly urban populations. These food systems, which interface with both rural and urban populations, and producers and consumers alike, provide key opportunities for improving nutritional outcomes.
There is a clear potential for the agriculture sector to play a critical role in enhancing nutrition and health especially for women and children. A well-developed agriculture and fishery sector can deliver increased and diversified farm outputs (crops, livestock, fish, non-food products) that may enhance food and nutrition security directly through increased access to and consumption of diverse foods, or indirectly through greater incomes to farmers and increased national wealth. Indeed, agriculture is a significant source of livelihoods in many poor countries and, in these settings, is also a major employer of women. Furthermore, the links between agriculture and nutrition work in both directions in that better nutrition and health of farmers can increase their agricultural and economic productivity. However, agriculture also carries risks to nutrition and health outcomes, for example, through zoonotic and other agriculture-related diseases, through the impact of agriculture on women’s workload and time for child care and feeding, and through the impact of agriculture on major environmental determinants of health including climate, groundwater availability, air quality and biodiversity.
There is some evidence that certain agricultural interventions can enhance dietary intakes and improve nutrition and health outcomes (for example summarized in: Carletto et al., 2015; Masset et al., 2012; Ruel et al., 2013; Webb Girard et al., 2012). Currently however, the evidence base for the potential of agricultural strategies to improve the nutrition and health of women and children is mixed, based on a relatively small number of heterogeneous studies, and generally constrained by methodological limitations. There is a need for a broader set of robust and large-scale evidence to guide global program and policy efforts in nutrition-sensitive agriculture.
Please review the white paper, Agriculture for Improved Nutrition: A future research agenda for additional background. In this paper, we report on the findings of a brief literature review and a consultation process with experts to identify critical gaps in the evidence base linking agriculture with nutrition. We present this as a discussion paper to solicit feedback from researchers, program managers, and policy makers.
To apply to the Agriculture for Improved Nutrition Research Program, funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, please review the Request for Applications here. If your concept meets the requirements outlined in the RFA, please submit a concept memo using this template and submit no later than June 1, 2017, to AgNutritionRFP_ImpactEval@gatesfoundation.org
For information about grants already awarded under this program please visit the links below
Please feel free to post any questions or queries on this forum where a response will be posted in due course.