Nutrition-sensitive agriculture: What have we learned so far?
This paper (PDF) in the Global Food Security journal summarizes existing knowledge regarding impacts, pathways, mechanisms, and contextual factors that affect where and how agriculture may improve nutrition outcomes. Of the impact evaluation studies, the most consistent finding was the impact of nutrition-sensitive agriculture programs (NSAP) on household and child dietary diversity and the consumption of animal-source foods or fruits and vegetables. The programs were successful at meeting the production and consumption goals and at improving household and individual access to nutrient-rich foods. Impact on maternal and child dietary diversity, food intake, micronutrient status and weight-specific nutritional status indicators were modest. Recent studies improved in program design, target groups and quality and rigor of impact evaluations. For observational studies, the main takeaway is that production diversity and livestock ownership are consistently associated with household and dietary diversity and with increased intake of essential micronutrients. Furthermore, the associations between production-consumption diversity linkages were modified by contextual factors, most importantly market access. The quality of observational studies was generally better than earlier studies. Overall, the main conclusions are the importance of production diversity and livestock ownership on consumption diversity and possibly nutritional status. This is mostly for households that live in remote areas and have limited access to markets, which are usually the poorest. Women’s empowerment is also an important mediator and in some cases an effect modifier of these relationships. Large knowledge gaps remain, on the potential nutrition contributions of traditional community-level agricultural programs and value chains, but also on the more holistic agriculture and food systems and their effects on all forms of malnutrition. The main recommendation for NSAP is to continue to be designed carefully, taking into account specific context and using formative research to identify main constraints that limit access to healthy diets, women’s empowerment and optimal nutrition.