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Impact Pathways from Agricultural Research to Improved Nutrition and Health: Literature Analysis and Research Priorities








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    Linking Agricultural Production Practices to Improving Human Nutrition and Health 2013
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    Dysfunctional food systems, never designed to improve human nutrition and health, are the basis of malnutrition in many poverty stricken human populations. Notably, all food systems are dependent on agricultural systems as the primary source of nutrients entering food systems. Thus, agricultural systems must play a major role in the development of malnutrition globally. If the products produced from farming systems cannot provide all the nutrients (excluding water) required for human life, malnu trition results causing increases in morbidity and mortality rates, losses in worker productivity and stagnation of development efforts in those populations dependent on these systems. Food security has been the major focus of many strategies to address malnutrition worldwide. Historically, meeting the caloric needs of populations was sufficient to meet global food security goals. However, just focusing on caloric needs alone is not sufficient. Food security programs should include the necessity that all nutrients be met by agricultural systems to redress the increases in malnutrition in mostly resource-poor families dependent on staple food crops for nourishment. “Nutrient security” should be one of the primary goals of food security programs and producing enough nutrients in agricultural systems to meet nutritional needs of all people during all seasons should be the focus. In general, well-nourished food crops grown on fertile soils contain more vitamins and micronutrients than nutr ient-stressed crops grown on infertile soils. Soil micronutrient status, cropping systems, variety selection (i.e., plant breeding) for micronutrient-dense crops (e.g., biofortification), fertilization practices, some soil amendments and livestock and aquiculture production are important factors that impact the nutrient output of these systems. A healthy agricultural industry is crucial for providing nutrients to humans. Soil quality and soil fertility have a direct influence on the nutrient lev els in food crops. Soil improvements can increase productivity and allow for greater diversity of crops without increasing the area cultivated. Agricultural tools, such as micronutrient-enriched fertilizers, and farming systems designed to meet nutritional needs should be used as sustainable strategies to reduce malnutrition. Plant breeders should include nutritional quality traits as well as yield traits as targets for enhancement when breeding for improved crop varieties. Biofortification is a new strategy that has great potential to help reduce the burden of micronutrient malnutrition globally especially in resource-poor families in rural areas. Clearly, agriculture must be closely linked to human nutrition and health if we are to find sustainable solution to malnutrition.
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    An Analysis of the Food System Landscape and Agricultural Value Chains for Nutrition: A Case Study from Sierra Leone 2013
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    The research undertaken in this project aimed to understand the role markets and value chains play in improving nutrition and dietary diversification both directly, through an increase in the production of nutritious foods sourced from smallholders in Sierra Leone, and indirectly, through an increase in income for smallholder farmers. Similarly, smallholder farmers can diversify their diet and improve their nutritional status either by producing more nutritious foods directly or by accessing mor e nutritious and diverse foods in markets through a rise in their disposable incomes.
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    Nutritional Deficiencies as Driver for Agriculture Value Chain Development: Lessons from the Field 2013
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    The search for effective ways to link agricultural resources to resolve nutritional problems has been an on and off challenge for more than 4 decades. Despite the impressive surge in effort over the past few years the fact remains genuine integration at all levels is very challenging. Why? If our collective challenge is to solve specific diet-related deficiencies, effectively communicating that challenge is the clear starting point so that barriers to change are broken and awareness and demand f or change is created. If approached in this way it comes down to a demand/ supply challenge. My straight forward approach to managing field projects has followed this simple point. Starting with the specific maternal/child nutritional gap and/or illness in zone of influence the staff explored how that problem (demand) could actually be addressed when viewed as a driver for agricultural supply chain upgrading. In other words, diet-related problems like the underconsumption of certain foods contai ning micronutrients (e.g. iron or carotene); diseases (e.g. diarrhea) or food safety issues (e.g. aflotoxin) can be prompts for adding value to crops that can in turn contribute to the solution. This represents a counter-intuitive response to most of status quo thinking about “nutrition” interventions. When viewed this way the key interventions from the technical support areas comprising agriculture, nutrition, health, business and cross-cut areas including gender and environmental resilience be come contextual, strategic and clear for all. Nexus points are identified, messages are designed jointly and are mutually enforcing. Field activities are no longer implemented in isolation and at cross purposes. This paper presents actual field experiences where using nutrition as the driver for all sizes of agricultural value chain activities does result in lasting change. The policy implications of this approach are also discussed.

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