Nutrition-sensitive agriculture: What have we learned and where do we go from here?
This discussion paper (PDF) by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reviews recent evidence that document linkages between agriculture, women’s empowerment, and nutrition. A growing number of governments, donor agencies, and development organizations are committed to supporting nutrition-sensitive agriculture (NSA) to achieve their development goals. This paper summarizes existing knowledge regarding not only impacts but also pathways, mechanisms, and contextual factors that affect where and how agriculture may improve nutrition outcomes. New evidence confirms that NSA programs improve a variety of nutrition outcomes in both mothers and children, especially when these programs include nutrition and health behavior change communication and carefully designed interventions to empower women. Greater benefits for child nutrition outcomes are achieved when programs also incorporate actions to improve health and WASH practices and to provide specially formulated fortified products to address children’s high nutrient requirements in areas where access to nutrient-rich foods is limited. The authors question whether a high quality of operations, implementation, and monitoring can be maintained for such complex, multisectoral programs, and whether successful scale-up is achievable. Given these constraints, they join the emerging consensus on the need for agriculture to focus on supporting access to and consumption of high-quality diets rather than on directly reducing childhood stunting. Another main takeaway from the review is the importance of context in determining how, to what extent, and under what conditions agriculture impacts nutrition.