This report examines current and planned research projects on agriculture for improved nutrition and uses a mapping process to identify gaps in research coverage. A conceptual framework has been developed to define and characterize agricultural research for improved nutrition. Placing nutrition at the centre, the framework identifies pathways by which research may contribute directly and indirectly to nutrition and how evidence of impact may be gathered along these.
The study found and characterized 151 research projects, most of which are part of broader research programmes. A significant majority of projects concern Sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on nutritional impacts on women and children. Most projects are led by organisations in Europe and North America, with research partners typically located in low and middle income countries (LMICs).
Over one-third of the research projects are associated with programmes of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), with most of the rest being led by universities and a smaller proportion by NGOs. The private sector feature as partners in only a small number of projects.
The research projects identified are funded by 46 organisations, but the funding landscape is dominated by five of these: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development, the Canadian International Development Agency, the International Development Research Centre, Canada, and the Department for International Development, UK.
Current research is of a range of types, including evaluations of agricultural development projects, research focused on specific agricultural interventions, and the creation and analysis of large datasets on agricultural and nutritional change. Most research projects are directed at improving the production of nutritious foods, including biofortification, other crop improvements, indigenous /traditional/local foods and agrobiodiversity. A second set of projects are characterised by their focus on value chains, which are also largely concerned with nutritious foods. A third group are concerned with agricultural growth and development with no specific focus on nutritious foods. The rest of the projects fall into much smaller categories, including the development of methodologies, collection of datasets, governance/capacity building and aflatoxins.
A gap analysis was conducted to identify more poorly researched areas, relative to the possible links between agriculture and improved nutrition identified in the conceptual framework. This analysis identified eight clear research gaps:
- the whole research chain – research that considers the full pathway of change from agricultural inputs, practices, value chains, food environment to nutrition outcomes; a significant number of projects do not consider the value chain
- the indirect effect of changes in agriculture on nutrition, through income and economic growth and associated changes in health and investments in health and education services
- the effects of agricultural policy on nutrition as mediated through the value chain
- governance, policy processes and political economy as it relates to the development of agriculture-for-nutrition policies and programmes, the ability to implement them (and scale up) and for them to achieve their stated goals once implemented
- the way research on agriculture and nutrition is conducted, such as the development of methodologies and appropriate metrics
- consumers as a broader target group, notably rural workers and non-rural populations
- the rural and urban poor at risk from nutrition-related non-communicable diseases
Although information was collected on the metrics and methods used in the research where available, it did not appraise them in anyway, meaning that it was not possible to identify gaps arising from inadequate quality in existing and planned research projects.
Hawkes, C.; Turner, R.; Waage, J. Current and planned research on agriculture for improved nutrition: a mapping and a gap analysis. A report for DFID. 21st August 2012. Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH), UK (2012) 48 pp.