Source: © 2008 Zackary Canepari/Panos

Annual Report 2011

While rapid economic growth and greater household food availability have led to changes in lifestyles in recent years, this has not translated into better diets and improved nutrition and health for the world’s most vulnerable, particularly women of reproductive age, infants, and young children. Improving food safety and diet quality are among the most pressing nutritional concerns, and there is a need for agriculture to increase the role it plays in this process.

Key Research and Outcomes from 2011

  • Improving nutrition not only requires nutritious foods to be readily available at affordable prices; it also requires behavioral changes within households and optimal distribution of nutritious foods to vulnerable household members, namely women of reproductive age and young children. In Burkina Faso, IFPRI researchers and collaborators from Helen Keller International are evaluating how much the effectiveness of a homestead food production program meant to benefit mothers and young children increases (if at all) when it is combined with a behavioral-change communications strategy. The study analyzes the role that social networks play in helping spread and disseminate nutrition- and health-related information through communities. This study and a similar one called Realigning Agriculture to Integrate Nutrition, which was conducted in Zambia in collaboration with Concern Worldwide, will provide urgently needed evidence on how agriculture interventions—especially those combined with a strong education component—contribute to improved maternal and child health and nutrition.

  • HarvestPlus, a biofortification program cohosted by IFPRI and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, continued its work with vitamin-A rich orange sweet potato, which showed impressive adoption rates and increased intake by vulnerable groups in Mozambique and Uganda, resulting in the scaling up of biofortification activities in many African countries.

  • Chronic exposure to aflatoxin—a highly carcinogenic fungus that frequently contaminates maize, groundnuts, and other crops—is believed to contribute to child stunting in developing countries. Through the Aflacontrol project, IFPRI researchers collected and analyzed data on the magnitude of this problem in Kenya and Mali and discussed possible solutions with experts in epidemiology, nutrition, agronomy, toxicology, and economics.

  • Despite the increasing number of health and nutrition interventions in India, less than 55 percent of mothers and children receive the benefits due, in part, to the logistical difficulty of scaling up high-quality services and also to a lack of consensus among policymakers on the best methods to combat undernutrition. In 2011, a new IFPRI project called POSHAN (Partnerships and Opportunities to Strengthen and Harmonize Actions for Nutrition in India) began gathering information on nutrition programs and policies to identify the best ways of delivering evidence-based interventions on a large scale in India.