This research area deals with topics related to both agriculture and health—sectors that are intertwined by common challenges, including climate change, the food and financial crises, and population pressures. The two sectors, however, still struggle to collaborate on responses; as a result, opportunities for unleashing positive synergies are often lost. On behalf of the CGIAR, IFPRI continues to coordinate an initiative dedicated to this connection: the Agriculture and Health Research Platform (AHRP). The Platform provides evidence-based options for (1) agricultural policies that improve health through the production of necessary food and income for workers’ overall well-being and (2) health policies that improve agriculture through the protection of the agricultural workforce and overall productivity. Individual AHRP projects currently focus on Rift Valley Fever in East Africa, homestead food production for better health and nutrition in Cambodia, and aflatoxin risk under climate variability and change in West Africa, while broader network development processes are underway in the two priority regions of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
The 2008 edition of the Global Hunger Index (GHI), one of IFPRI’s most popular knowledge products, listed 33 countries with “alarming” or “extremely alarming” hunger levels. In addition, the continued overall severity of the hunger situation in India led to a country-specific effort—the India State Hunger Index (ISHI)—which scored and ranked states within India and compared them to country scores and ranks on the GHI. The India State Hunger Index was released in collaboration with the New Delhi Office in October 2008, and global interest and requests instantly flooded IFPRI from high-level Indian officials; the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development; and major news media in India, Canada, the United States, and beyond. The New York Times covered it and provided an accompanying audiovisual.
Another area of research being conducted at the intersection of agriculture and health focuses on potential disease outbreaks, specifically Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (or avian flu). With public attention turned toward avian flu and swine flu, IFPRI’s study on pro-poor approaches to risk reduction is a timely, necessary effort to help developing countries create cost-effective, sustainable prevention strategies that the poor are willing to adopt. Despite a lot of uncertainty about the timing and scope of a potential animal disease outbreak, such as avian flu, governments must make critical decisions about ways to defend against such a threat. This project’s recent findings on the economywide impacts of avian flu suggest that, in Africa, the demand shocks driven by consumer panic are the largest contributor to reduced poultry production. Since the poultry sector is small, however, these impacts are expected to be minimal. At the household level, the effect of an outbreak on livelihoods would be similarly reduced or mitigated by diversified income portfolios, which most poultry-producing households possess. Producing crops and raising other livestock will enable them to be resilient to health shocks.
In its efforts to reduce hidden hunger and combat micronutrient malnutrition, HarvestPlus, an international research program cohosted by IFPRI and CIAT, continues to help scientists use conventional methods to breed staple crops with higher levels of key vitamins and minerals. In an ongoing study conducted in Uganda and Mozambique, HarvestPlus—in collaboration with IFPRI and the International Potato Center—evaluated alternative ways to implement biofortification by introducing provitamin A–enriched orange sweet potato, which can improve the vitamin-A deficiency estimated to currently afflict 32 percent of Africa’s population. To maximize the nutritional benefits and cost-effectiveness of the crop’s impact, researchers conducted follow-up dietary-intake and socioeconomic surveys; the analysis of this data will be completed in 2010.