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What is nutrition-sensitive agriculture?

Agriculture is nutrition-sensitive when it addresses the underlying causes of malnutrition.

Nutrition-sensitive agriculture supports

Food security

Adequate caregiving resources

Access to health services and a hygienic environment

Looking Beyond Food for Better Nutrition

While a better diet means better health, research shows that food alone won’t solve the problem of malnutrition. In this short video, SPRING explores why and how agriculture can better contribute to nutrition, and introduces tools and expertise to guide development practitioners in making agriculture programs nutrition sensitive.

Planting a field

People harvesting rice © Thomas Sennett/World Bank
© Thomas Sennett/World Bank

This landscape analysis is SPRING’s foundational work regarding the state of Feed the Future’s approach to linking agriculture and nutrition. It provided a baseline for USAID programming leveraging agriculture’s potential to positively impact nutrition.

Read the landscape analysis

Identifying gaps and charting a way forward

Beginning in 2012, SPRING convened a series of regional workshops and conducted a landscape analysis to explore the approaches used in nutrition investments under the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future Initiative. The findings from the landscape analysis highlighted gaps in efforts to collaborate across sectors to improve nutrition. We are filling those gaps through:

global evidence & guidance »

design & implementation tools »

learning from field experience »

Global Evidence and Guidance

SPRING's work explores why integration is necessary for better results in nutrition and identifies how to better link agriculture and nutrition programming. To help Feed the Future programs meet their nutritional goals, we developed a framework we call the agriculture-to-nutrition pathways, which shows the ways agriculture improves nutritional outcomes. The resources below share what we've learned so far.

Woman in a field with a hoe © Scott Wallace/World Bank
© Scott Wallace/World Bank
Improving Nutrition through Agriculture Technical Brief Series

This collection of briefs addresses gaps in the evidence and guidance for how Feed the Future activities could explicitly link the work to improve agriculture production, grow agriculture markets, reduce poverty AND improve nutrition, especially of women and children, within their zones of influences.

Browse the series

Photo of a man drinking water outside.
© 2001 Erberto Zani, Courtesy of Photoshare
Multiple-Use Water Services: Toward a Nutrition-Sensitive Approach

We also completed a review in 2015 of multi-use water services (MUS) and the successes and gaps around linking MUS to improved nutrition.

Read the review

Photo of bicycles parked outside with several gallon jugs tied to them.
Source: Samantha Clark, SPRING
Enhancing Multi-Sectoral Coordination and Collaboration Through the CHAIN Project

We worked with USAID/Rwanda to strengthen their vision, plans, and approaches for coordination and collaboration across technical sectors and implementing partners.

Read the case study

Photo of a man drinking water outside.
Source: Judiann McNulty, SPRING
Improving Nutrition Outcomes through the Western Highlands Integrated Program (WHIP)

This case study documents USAID/Guatemala’s premise that coordination is not only important, but necessary, to achieve the common economic growth, food security, and nutrition goals established for the investments that USAID is making in Guatemala's Western Highlands.

Read the case study

Photo of a woman holding her baby.
Source: Tim Williams, SPRING
Multi-Sectoral Coordination and Collaboration of the Feed the Future Portfolio

Looking only at the portfolio of Feed the Future activities funded by USAID Bangladesh, SPRING worked with the USAID Bangladesh Mission and its Feed the Future partners to identify ways of strengthening their vision, plans, and approaches for coordination and collaboration of technical sectors, implementing partners, and other stakeholders around nutrition.

Read the case study

Cartoon that shows coordination and collaboration as ways to bridge gaps
Credit: SPRING
Operationalizing Multi-sectoral Coordination and Collaboration for Improved Nutrition

Reducing undernutrition requires a commitment from multiple sectors, yet documentation on how to collaborate across sectors to reach global goals is scant. Through a three-country assessment and literature review, SPRING investigated approaches to multi-sectoral collaboration for nutrition. This paper highlights lessons that USAID and its implementing partners learned, and provides a series of recommendations to guide the designing, implementing, and monitoring of future collaboration.

Read the brief

USAID’s Nutrition-Sensitive Indicators

SPRING is helping define how to measure nutrition-sensitive agriculture. Recognizing that increased household consumption of nutritious crops may not happen automatically with increased production, we conducted research regarding data collection for a new Feed the Future indicator focused on intended consumption of nutrient-rich value chain commodities (NRVCC). USAID released revised data collection guidance incorporating SPRING's work on the NRVCC indicator in its most recent indicator handbook. For more information about SPRING’s field work and findings, you can watch our webinar on the topic.

Design and Implementation Tools

We are developing a suite of tools that will equip international development practitioners with the latest evidence and guidance to design and monitor programs that link agriculture and nutrition. Our early experience underscores the importance of a thorough understanding of local contexts in designing effective nutrition-sensitive agriculture programs. As a result, we developed the Agriculture and Nutrition Context Assessment Tool to use whether creating new programs or amending existing projects.

Agriculture and Nutrition Context Assessment Tool

Conceptual Pathways between Agriculture and Nutrition

Click on an outlined box for a list of associated guidance questions   that link to tools to help carry out context assessments. Some components were outside the scope of this activity and are therefore not clickable.
Any assessment requires multiple aspects of inquiry, so SPRING developed specific guidance questions. These questions should help support the conceptualization and planning of a context assessment exercise and analysis or help check the range of assumptions that should be considered in agriculture-nutrition project design.
FoodProduction FoodPricesChildNutritionOutcomesMother'sNutritionOutcomes Female EnergyExpenditureHealthStatusDietHealthCareCaring Capacity& PracticesWomen'sEmpowermentNon-foodExpenditureProcessing& StorageFoodExpenditureAgriculturalIncomeFoodAccessNational Economic Growth National Nutrition Profile Household Assets & Livelihoods Agricultural Livelihoods Key components of the enabling environment - Food market environment - Natural resources - Health, water, and sanitation - Nutrition/health knowledge and norms Value Chains & Market Systems**

**As the starting points on the pathways diagram above (Food Production, Income, Women's Empowerment) often reflect outcomes of agricultural value chains, we have added a search category for value chains and market systems.

Adapted for Feed the Future by Anna Herforth, Jody Harris, and SPRING, from Gillespie, Harris, and Kadiyala (2012) and Kadiyala et al. (2014). Learn more about the pathways.

Woman in field
Credit: Cambodia HARVEST
Accelerating Behavior Change in Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture

Making agriculture work for nutrition is fundamentally about changing people’s behaviors. The Accelerating Change in Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture online training course will help implementers address questions such as: What are nutrition-sensitive agriculture practices? How do we select and prioritize those practices for our context and target populations? How do we increase the use of those practices?

View the Training

Currently under development:

Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture Design Workshop Tool. Designed for agricultural market development projects working to incorporate explicit nutrition objectives into their design, this step-by-step process helps identify constraints to nutrition, create project-specific solutions, and prioritize interventions for improved nutrition. It includes a facilitator’s guide, presentation slides, and activity handouts to facilitate a 1-2 day workshop.

Learning from Field Experience

Since 2012, SPRING has been working with USAID and its Feed the Future implementing partners to document experiences working along the agriculture-to-nutrition pathways. Our reports provide a snapshot of how development partners are implementing and measuring nutrition-sensitive agriculture practices in different contexts, and the various successes and lessons learned along the way.

2 women and a child standing in front of a sign
Reports | April 2015
Woman with child picking fruit
Training Materials | March 2015
Image of child sitting outside house
Reports | September 2014
A bustling market in Guatemala
Briefs | June 2015
The Role of Increased Income and Women’s Empowerment on Nutrition
Reports | January 2015
Grain Storage: Mercy Corps
Reports | September 2014
Supporting Agriculture and Nutrition Interventions at the Community Level in Senegal
Field Notes | June 2014
Map of Nepal
Field Notes | April 2014
Training to Integrate Agriculture and Nutrition in Bangladesh
Field Notes | April 2014
Photo of a boy holding a large leaf, ACCESO nutrition education
Field Notes | March 2014

SPRING is also implementing a range of components of nutrition-sensitive agriculture and collecting lessons learned in our country programs in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kyrgyz Republic, Senegal, and through community media work we are conducting in partnership with Digital Green in India and Burkina Faso and Niger.

We regularly share results, lessons learned, and other experience implementing nutrition-sensitive agriculture though:

Agriculture and Nutrition Resource Review »

A monthly selection of materials to keep you updated on research and developments related to strengthening linkages between agriculture and nutrition.

Events and Webinars »

SPRING hosts and contributes to a wide range of events that focus on nutrition within global development efforts. These events expand learning and foster experience and evidence exchange to inform nutrition policy and improve programming.

Join Us »

Become part of our community of agriculture and nutrition practitioners and researchers to receive updates on new resources and learning events.