Knowledge for Development

Relevant publications

Agricultural R&D, food prices, poverty and malnutrition redux

In this article Julian M. Alston (UC Davis, USA) and Philip G. Pardey (University of Minnesota, USA) revisit the links between agricultural research and development (R&D) and its consequences for nutrition and health outcomes of the poor in the context of two twenty-first century conundrums. First, while many of the world’s poor remain undernourished, paradoxically, growing numbers of people from a very broad range of income and social strata are overweight or obese. Second, rates of investment in agricultural research are slowing in many countries in spite of continuing high social rates of return to the investments, a trend toward higher food prices, and slowing rates of farm productivity growth in many countries.  In this article, the authors provide answers to the following questions: To what extent is the agricultural abundance (enabled by public R&D policy and investment) responsible for the rise of obesity?  What is the nature of the trade-offs between health and nutrition problems arising from increasing food abundance versus health and nutrition problems arising from food scarcity?  Should societies use agricultural R&D as an instrument of public health policy or other dimensions of social policy? The authors conclude that in the political reality of agricultural science funding, it will continue to be better to accept funding conditional on it being used for a particular – lower payoff – purpose if the alternative is to have an even worse problem of underinvestment in the total portfolio.     (AgEcon Search, 07/01/2014)


Promoting healthy growth: what are the priorities for research and action

While studies identified several low-cost interventions to address undernutrition from the embryo after conception to the development of a child of 2 years old, it is recognised that existing nutrition solutions, even if universally applied, would only avert a minority fraction of the estimated death and disability due to undernutrition. This paper considers how to close this “impact gap.” Five areas are prioritised for future research: 1) study healthy growth from a lifecycle perspective, because maternal, fetal, and newborn outcomes are connected; 2) understand why growth faltering begins so early in breast-fed infants in the developing world; 3) apply new tools and technologies to study long-recognised problems such as the interaction between nutrition and infection; 4) explore new hypotheses for understanding nutrient assimilation and use to discover and develop intervention leads; and 5) understand the role of the environment in healthy growth and the potential synergistic benefits of multi-sectoral interventions.   (Advances in  Nutrition , 2012)  


Addressing micronutrient deficiencies: alternative interventions and technologies

Market failure for nutritional attributes of foods leads to underinvestment in crop breeding to enhance nutritional content of foods. As awareness of the importance of micronutrient deficiencies in the diets of poor people has grown, public investments in research to create biofortified staple crops have increased. An examination of lessons from established interventions to address micronutrient deficiencies shows where and how biofortification can complement existing interventions and provides guidance regarding potential hurdles to successful implementation. The potential for different crop-breeding technologies to biofortify crops is examined, and the advances that can only be achieved through application of modern biotechnology are identified.  (AgBioForum, 2007)   


Developing a sustainable nutrition research agenda in sub-saharan Africa – findings from the SUNRAY project

A collaborative effort by stakeholders in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to identify priorities for nutrition research and actions to create an enabling research environment is summarised. The priorities were (i) community interventions to improve nutritional status, (ii) behavioural strategies to improve nutritional status, and (iii) food security interventions to improve nutrition. The actions for creating an enabling nutrition research environment were (i) better governance of nutrition research, (ii) alignment of nutrition research funding with priorities identified within SSA, (iii) increased capacity development for nutrition research competencies, and (iv) enhanced information sharing and communication of nutrition research findings.  (PLoS Med, 2014)   


Improving nutrition – issues in management and capacity development

Key issues in the design and implementation of community nutrition programmes are listed, including: community empowerment and decentralisation; staffing and job design; supervision, training and referral; programme monitoring and evaluation; sectoral capacity analysis and strategy development; building understanding, commitment and behavioural change; managing the nutrition sector; managing nutrition programme support organisations; tools for institutional analysis and capacity development; building technical assistance capacity; improving donor cooperation; and improving coordination across sectors. It suggests priorities for a work programme in management and capacity development in nutrition, including: preparing case studies of successful nutrition programmes, preparing best-practice nutrition projects with strong emphasis on capacity development, creating groups to focus on management and capacity development in key institutions dealing with nutrition and creating networks to share experience.   (The World Bank, 2002)  


Nutrition challenges in the Caribbean

This paper focuses on two critical public health concerns: (1) Food security and nutritional deficiency diseases and (2) obesity and its co-morbidities of chronic diseases. The disease consequences of obesity such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancers are chronic and very expensive to manage. This cost places a disproportionate burden on poor families and perpetuates the vicious cycle. There is heightened concern within the Caribbean regarding the need to implement comprehensive health promotion programmes aimed at the prevention and control of chronic diseases.    (Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute, 2000)   


Nutrition in Africa in a global economy: perspectives, challenges and opportunities

Malnutrition in Africa is increasing due to various factors, some of which involve the changing global economic policies. Perspectives of globalisation in relation to nutrition in Africa and the opportunities and challenges faced by nutritionists and relevant workers are presented. Globalisation is affecting food and diseases patterns in Africa hence changing the scenario of the nutrition problems in Africa. Africa is now facing a double burden of having to deal with traditional under-nutrition and emerging over-nutrition in the ailing economies characterised by poor physical and information technology infrastructure, unskilled and unmotivated workers and increasing poverty.   (African Study Monographs, 2001)    


Research priorities: nutrition and obesity

The risks associated with fat intake and fat quality are still an issue for research, especially in relation to the nutritional transition in developing countries. While the importance of having a high ratio of n-3 to n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids has been recognised, the role of the longer chain n-3 fats found in fish is still uncertain.  Readily measurable intermediate markers of the response to diet relating to cancer are needed. The long-term importance of the health and nutritional status of women going through pregnancy is critical in relation to epigenetic susceptibility to chronic disease. The relationship between nutrition and bone health, asthma, blindness and mental health is neglected. Translational research is needed to illustrate the effects of policies aimed to guide the food supply chain and to strengthen surveillance.   (WHO, 2010)    


Overcoming child malnutrition in developing countries: past achievements and future choices

Although the percentage of children who are malnourished has declined in many countries of the developing world in recent years, the absolute number of malnourished children is rising in some regions, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. IFPRI’s 2020 vision is of a world where every person has access to sufficient food to sustain a healthy and productive life and where child malnutrition is absent. This paper aims to determine which of the various causes of malnutrition are most important for the developing countries as a whole and by region, thus enabling policymakers to prioritise their investments and make the best use of available resources to reduce malnutrition now and in the coming years.   (IPFRI, 2000)  


Farming for balanced nutrition: an agricultural approach to addressing micronutrient deficiency among the vulnerable poor in Africa

An increase in the cultivation of high quality foods such as legumes, fruits and green vegetables, may be able to deliver a balanced diet with adequate micronutrients to households, without necessarily requiring additional land and labour. Such approaches foster community self-reliance, are sustainable in the absence of external funding, and offer the opportunity for enhanced income by marketing surplus production. Diet diversification through better use of existing biodiversity offers an immediate means to address poor diet quality and can also include the use of presently available nutritionally enhanced crops, such as orange-fleshed sweet potato.  (African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, 2011)