A Strategy for More Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture: The July Ag Sector Council Webinar
Food security and anti-hunger programming has traditionally sought to address the caloric needs of individuals and populations to ensure that people don’t go hungry. But as the development agenda becomes more nuanced, the focus has shifted toward addressing malnutrition, or “a condition resulting when a person’s diet does not provide adequate nutrients for growth and maintenance or if they are unable to fully utilize the food they eat due to illness.[i]” In short, the conversation has shifted to the quality of food, not just the quantity. The July Ag Sector Council Webinar featured a presentation on USAID's new Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy that reflects this shift. It was presented by Mike Manske and Sally Abbott, two representatives of the technical working group behind the strategy.
Michael Manske of USAID's Bureau for Global Health began with a short history of USAID’s involvement in nutrition issues in developing countries. Through offices like Food for Peace and various nutrition interventions, USAID has a long legacy of investment in nutrition-sensitive interventions. A number of USAID bureaus and offices came together to form a technical working group, and with external nutrition literature in mind (like the World Health Assembly targets for 2025 and the Lancet Maternal and Child Nutrition series), the group created the nutrition strategy. The USAID Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy was released in May 2014 to provide guidance to the various USAID initiatives that address malnutrition, including: Feed the Future, Global Health, Food for Peace, and other resilience and nutrition investments that could (or do) address nutrition.
Manske continued by outlining the goal of the USAID nutrition strategy, which is to “guide the Agency’s policies and programs for nutrition in both emergency and development contexts with the goal of improving nutrition to save lives, build resilience, increase economic productivity, and advance development.” A more specific goal is to reduce child stunting by 20 percent wherever USAID works. Manske also mentioned some of the High-Impact Actions included in the strategy and ways to address sustainability of nutrition interventions, which include details on the strategy rollout.
Sally Abbott of USAID's Bureau for Food Security continued the webinar with more detail on Nutrition-Sensitive agriculture and how this strategy may be implemented. She highlighted specific areas of the results framework (see image below) that address underlying systematic causes of malnutrition that would fall under the rubric of nutrition-sensitive interventions (as opposed to interventions that address direct causes of malnutrition, which would be classified as nutrition-specific). Nutrition-sensitive agriculture may improve production systems to increase income, but it should also include behavior change programming and measurements in place to track consumption changes of nutritious foods.
Abbott concluded with a brief comment on how this strategy is part of a larger USAID effort to view the nutrition-agriculture nexus differently than in the past. The multi-sectoral nature of this strategy uses all of the contact points that affect nutrition and is not just limited to a particular office or bureau at the Mission level. The nutrition working group continues to work on strengthening the evidence base, provide policy support to scale up effective interventions, and plans to release additional technical guidance and assistance to Missions to ensure that more nutrition-sensitive and nutrition-intensive interventions are included in their portfolios.
Following the presentation, Abbot and Maske opened up the presentation to a slew of technical questions from webinar participants. Topics of interest to the webinar audience included desigining programs to include men in programming for improving family nutrition, ways the private sector can improve nutritional outcomes, collaborating with existing Innovation Labs that are focused in this area, and how to encourage behavior change. For a complete recording of the Q&A, check out the webinar recording or the transcript.
[i] USAID Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy 2014-2025. P 47