Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Context Matters: Finding the Right Nutrition-Sensitive Context Assessment Tool for Your Program

Alyssa Klein is a Food Security and Nutrition Specialist on SPRING at JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. SPRING is funded by USAID and helps to strengthen country efforts to scale up high-impact nutrition practices and policies.

In 2012 when I first started my job at SPRING, USAID’s multi-sectoral nutrition project, nutrition-sensitive agriculture was a novel idea that we explored with USAID Missions and implementing partners in a series of Agriculture-Nutrition Global Learning and Evidence Exchange events. Five years later, nutrition-sensitive agriculture is better understood but many of the challenges we encountered back then are still relevant today. One is designing effective programs that take local contexts into account, especially for behavior-centered approaches that operate at the nexus of household dynamics, social norms and individual behavior.

Rather than re-creating the wheel, SPRING set out to link agriculture practitioners with context assessment tools through the lens of the agriculture-to-nutrition pathways to guide the design of nutrition-sensitive programs. We aimed to help understand what questions should be answered when designing and implementing nutrition-sensitive programs. We then built a searchable library of 54 existing context assessment tools to help answer those questions. 

Seeing the questions through SPRING’s conceptual pathways between agriculture and nutrition helps designers and implementers 1) test assumptions they may have and 2) understand how close to nutritional outcomes their project interventions may get them. We summarized the context assessment tools (PDF, 1MB) that are related to one or more components of the agriculture-nutrition pathways to easily choose the best fit based on assessment objectives, timing and available budget.

We recently updated our Context Assessment Tool Locator with new tools that have come online since we originally launched it in 2013. The tools we included can be adapted, allowing practitioners to select the most relevant parts of any given tool to meet their assessment objectives. However, selecting the appropriate tools, or parts of a particular tool, can be challenging. This online resource is designed to support this process, giving a practical overview of what context assessment is and how and when to include it in project design and implementation.

We’ve come a long way since those early days of Feed the Future but we still have a way to go before we can end malnutrition. It is our sincere hope that this resource will help in that long after SPRING closes its doors in May 2018.