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From Agriculture to Nutrition, Pathways, Synergies and Outcomes

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"From Agriculture to Nutrition, Pathways, Synergies and Outcomes" is the title of a recently completed World Bank Study which was prepared by an inter-disciplinary team from international Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the World Bank.The study had the objective to analyze how agriculture influences nutritional outcomes in developing countries and to come up with conclusions to improve the synergies between food production and food consumption. The outcome of the study is highly relevant for agriculture and food security policy development.

One of the main conclusions of the study is, that overall economic growth (GNP) had only a limited impact on child malnutrition. "While production increased, protein-energy malnutrition persisted and increased income from commercial agriculture did not improve substantially child nutritional status" (ES XIV). Investments in agricultural to increase food production and commercialization of products were necessary but did not automatically translate in improved childhood nutrition in the past. Increased household incomes did not lead to more energy intake as households shifted to more expensive sources of energy. 

Therefore complementary approaches that specifically target dietary habits, care-giving practices and improved health are necessary to improve the nutritional status of children.

Agricultural programs with a specific nutrition focus (promoting homestead production of fruits and vegetables and small scale livestock production) had a potential to tackle micronutrient deficiencies and were specifically successful if they were combined with interventions focusing on women. In general, agricultural programs that empower women and addressed them in their roles as economic agents and family care takers increased the nutritional outcome. Women's education/information on appropriate child feeding, care practices, water and sanitation and food safety were essential in this context.

The study also informed on changing consumption patterns in the urban areas of developing countries. This "nutrition transition" from staples toward energy dense, higher value food has also negative nutritional outcome like obesity and related diseases. However, also the demand for functional foods that carry health benefits is raising and niche markets provide increasing opportunities for producers.

The study concluded further that nutrition improvements demand for interfaces between agriculture and other sectors that bear on nutrition like health, education and trade. However, there was little evidence for successful coordination between different ministry-level institutions. High level institutional coordination frameworks were often not efficient due to bureaucratic barriers and lower level collaboration on specific issues may be a more promising approach to intensify cooperation and exchange between sectors.

The study which will be published in December 2007is already available under:

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