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Feed the Future (FTF) Global Food Security Strategy developed by 11 U.S. Government agencies and departments, presents an integrated approach to combating the root causes of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty and achieve a more food-secure future across the globe.

woman at a market

The strategy is accompanied by core technical guidance documents that provides a shared understanding of key concepts and best practices for designing and implementing Feed the Future programs under the Global Food Security Strategy and are core to achieving the three strategic objectives:

1.Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural-Led Economic Growth

2.Strengthened Resilience among people and systems

3.A well-nourished population, especially among women and children

Nutrition is integral to achieving and sustaining food security, as reflected in the Global Food Security Act of 2016 and adopts the integrated approaches to nutrition laid out in USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy (MSNS) and the USG Global Nutrition Coordination Plan (GNCP).

The Nutrition Technical guidance document lays the foundation for designing new and follow-on integrated programming that incorporates nutrition objectives and technical approaches to optimize nutrition outcomes. It describes the best practices in nutrition programming in the context of the comprehensive approach called for in the GFSS, clarifies concepts, recommends programming principles, and provides links to technical resources for nutrition. This guidance on nutrition is intended to provide a framework for designing and implementing Feed the Future programs under the GFSS to achieve the Strategic Objective 3: A well-nourished population, especially among women and children as can be seen from the graphic below (Figure 1).

Figure 1: USAID FTF GFSS Objective 3: A well-nourished population, especially among women and children and Intermediate Results (IR) from the GFSS Results Framework

The GFSS Results Framework reflects a multi-sectoral nutrition approach to achieve Objective 3 that specifically targets women and children under five, with an emphasis on the 1000 day window of opportunity from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday, which is critical for optimum physical and cognitive development.

As illustrated in Figure 1, Objective 3 is achieved through three intermediate results (IRs 7-9). Optimal nutrition outcomes are often only achieved when nutrition-specific interventions (IR8) and nutrition-sensitive interventions (IR7 and IR9) are designed in close collaboration and coordination with each other, as all three intermediate results are necessary and important. Additional guidance for nutrition programming was developed under the MSNS and should be consulted as appropriate when designing nutrition activities in agriculture development projects.

USAID Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture Programming-Nutrient-Rich Value Chains Technical Guidance Brief

For agricultural development activities to be more nutrition-sensitive, interventions must address BOTH the underlying and basic causes of malnutrition. Agriculture technologies and investments may improve availability and access to food, while also ensuring that producer households have income to pay for caregiving resources, and health care. The Primary Pathways for Improving Nutrition through Agriculture Technical Briefs highlight that a variety of nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions may be needed to ultimately contribute to improving the nutrition of women and children (SPRING 2014). As illustrated by Figure 2 below, the pathways include:

  1. Food production, which can affect the food available for household consumption as well the price of diverse foods
  2. Agricultural income for expenditure on food and non-food items
  3. Women's empowerment, which affects income, caring capacity and practices, and female energy expenditure.

Acting on all of these routes is the enabling environment for nutrition, including several key components: the natural resources environment; the food market environment; the health, water, and sanitation environment; nutrition/ health knowledge and norms; and other factors, such as policy and governance. 

Conceptual Pathways between Agriculture and Nutrition
Figure 2: Conceptual Pathways between Agriculture and Nutrition, Herforth and Harris, 2014

The three pathways, ten programming principles and five policy principles explored in this USAID technical brief provide a summary of the current state of knowledge of ways to use agriculture to improve nutrition. While these pathways are not linear, and the interactions in some contexts are quite complex, the conceptual framework is a useful tool in design and implementation of nutrition-sensitive activities in agriculture programs. Making relevant changes (even if minor) to the design of an agricultural program can significantly improve nutrition outcomes. 

For example, shifting focus from staple grains to more nutrient-rich foods such as legumes can improve dietary diversity and thus nutrition outcomes.  Illustrative examples of potential nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions as detailed in World Bank’s ‘Prioritizing Nutrition in Agriculture and Rural Development-Guiding Principles for Operational Investments’ is listed in Table 1 below. 

Table 1. Examples of nutrition outcomes and intervention
Nutrition outcome statement Interventions that lead to the nutrition outcome
Increase dietary diversity
  • Diversify production systems to encourage dietary diversification (for example, broaden the diversity of foods included in agricultural training, extension, seed provision programs, and exports)
  • Package agriculture projects with gender-sensitive nutrition education
  • Enhance market opportunities for a diversity of foods, particularly micronutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, pulses, and animal-source foods
  • Improve infrastructure needed to enable market access (especially for perishable foods)
  • Improve infrastructure needed to enable market access (especially for perishable foods)
  • Implement preservation technologies (for example, drying)
  • Improve income, particularly of women, coupled with nutrition education
Increase micronutrient intake
  • Diversify production systems to encourage dietary diversification
  • Package agriculture projects with gender-sensitive nutrition education
  • Implement preservation technologies (for example, drying)
  • Grow biofortified crops
  • Fortify foods
  • Promote use of fertilizers with key micronutrients (zinc and iodine), through education and policy
Improve maternal and childcare and feeding
  • Design projects to enhance women’s control of income from agricultural activities and preserve their time available for childcare
  • Package agriculture projects with gender-sensitive nutrition education
  • To increase women’s income, focus on crops and livestock breeds that women disproportionately produce
  • Prioritize technologies that improve productivity and introduce time savings for tasks that women traditionally perform (for example, weeding and hoeing, food processing, crop transportation)
  • Strengthen women’s access to productive resources, training and support services (for example, land, agricultural inputs, credit, extension services)
  • Involve the entire family, not only women
Protect health
  • Improve water delivery systems (for irrigation and home use), paying close attention to water use efficiency
  • Ensure that new agricultural techniques do not increase risk of parasitic or mosquito-borne disease or contamination of available water
  • Improve basic food safety, including control of aflatoxin, and improved storage and transport
  • Overlap agriculture, health, and social protection projects geographically
Improve environment supportive of nutrition
  • Increase capacity of staff in ministries to address malnutrition
  • Cross-train program staff and extensionists in relevant content areas. E.g., Agricultural extensionists could provide nutrition messages while remaining focused primarily on agricultural training and production goals
  • Improve land tenure policies, particularly for women and indigenous groups
  • Employ policies to reduce non-food expenses of the malnourished, such as school fees and health care costs
  • Improve infrastructure to enable market access
  • Provide social safety nets