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Information

UNLEASHING AGRICULTURE?S POTENTIAL FOR IMPROVED
Policy Actions

A. Strengthen Cross‐Sectoral Linkages at all Levels
1. Enhance the Agriculture‐Nutrition‐Health (A‐N‐H) link at the policy level
(a) Intensify policy dialogue among the agriculture, nutrition, and health sectors. The National
Nutrition Policy and Strategic Plan (NNP&SP) and the National Nutrition Education and
Communication Strategy (NECS) give room for this dialogue, and if their provisions are followed
and greater mutual trust shown, the A‐N‐H linkages will be energized, with sectoral roles and
responsibilities for nutrition and health outcomes clearly defined. Dialogue is necessary to
maintain coherence at the policy level across the sectors.
(b) Recast food and nutrition security as an urgent?not an optional? issue on the agenda in the
Agriculture Sector Wide Approach (ASWAp). Maintain nutrition as a key feature in the dynamic
ASWAp document throughout revisions, and ensure that nutrition is given a priority at
implementation stage. For example, biofortified legumes can be part of the Farm Input Subsidy
Programme (FISP). Higher visibility for nutrition can be part of the post‐Comprehensive Africa
Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) roadmap.
2. Revitalize joint planning mechanisms ? Appoint a driver!
(a) Conduct joint planning on nutrition before national budgets are drawn. This will ensure that
consideration of budgetary implications/needs of all sectors is fed into the national budget
process. In this way, the NNP&SP and the Health Sector Support Programme will
inform/influence the ASWAp and its priorities.
(b) Enable the Department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS (DNHA) to take the lead in the joint planning
process, and hold it accountable to the nutrition directorates of Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation
and Water Development and the Ministry of Health for adequate consultations and needs
assessments, which must involve the private sector and civil society in sufficient numbers.
(c) Harmonize and coordinate monitoring and evaluation systems within the health and agriculture
sector‐wide approaches with regard to nutrition outcomes. Clarify who has the mandate to
ensure that the agriculture component of the NNP&SP is achieved. The nutrition directorate in
the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development should be held accountable to the
DNHA and the Ministry of Health (Nutrition Directorate) for the implementation of programs that
link A‐N‐H.
(d) Enable the DNHA to scale up its capacity¸ such as by increasing its staff base and engaging a
technical driving body to boost its capacity to effectively carry out this crucial coordination role.
3. Engage key stakeholders ?politicians, institutional leaders, women, youth
(a) Promote awareness among stakeholders on household food and nutrition security, quality of
care, and a healthy environment using an interdisciplinary approach, such as through analysis of
household decisionmaking (including gender issues) to complement scientific research.
(b) Make multi‐sectoral policy and strategy consultations more comprehensive and inclusive prior to
joint sectoral working group planning by using National and District Stakeholder Panels.
4. Integrate nutrition into planning and budgets at all decentralized levels
(a) Apply incentives for increased production of nutritionally important crops and livestock. Legumes,
fruits and vegetables, small livestock (poultry, goat, rabbit), and bio‐fortified crops such as vitamin
A rich cassava, orange fleshed sweet potato, iron‐ and zinc‐rich beans, and vitamin A‐rich
tomatoes all offer dietary advantages. However, the focus on staple crops through the Farm Input
Subsidy Programme (FISP) should continue because farmers will only diversify when the staple is
secured.
(b) Earmark funds for nutrition extension work at the district and Extension Planning Area (EPA) levels to ensure that nutrition issues are prioritized.
(c) Strengthen district level cross‐sectoral collaboration in A‐N‐H which is weaker than at national
level. Learn from Non‐State Actors (e.g., World Vision) who have effectively integrated nutrition
into the Area Development Programmes (ADP).
(d) Build the capacity and influence of District Food and Nutrition Officers for promoting food and
nutrition security in all Agriculture Development Divisions (ADDs).

B. Scale up Investments in Integrated Agriculture‐Nutrition‐Health Programs
1. Build on successful agriculture programs that focus on nutrition and health
(a) Entrench improved nutrition as one of the outputs in all programs in the agricultural sector. Good
program design with nutrition integrated would encourage management accountability for
nutritional outcomes. Objectives will be achieved cross‐sectorally, and so indicators should reflect
nutritional benefits.
(b) Build on successes based on lessons from, for example, the Micronutrient and Health (MICAH)
project, and design even better projects for particular districts. Be realistic about outcomes,
especially taking into account human resource constraints.
(c) Clearly define the objectives and financial and human resources necessary for nutrition‐ and
health‐focused agriculture to attract support from politicians and other decisionmakers. The
Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative offers scope for this. Achievements should be measured at
EPA, district, ADD, and national levels.
2. Build agricultural extension capacity at the grassroots level
(a) Increase the capacity of agricultural extension by employing more, pre‐service, and in‐service
training on how to fit nutrition messages into agriculture extension. Alternatively, consider
reinstating the Farm Home Assistants, who would be specially trained in home economics and
nutrition, and encourage women to participate. Be sensitive to the fact that front‐line staff may
already be overwhelmed; be realistic when making demands of them.
(b) Orient the whole extension network on the importance of nutrition‐ and health‐focused agriculture
so that everyone, including the supervisors, has the requisite knowledge (e.g., on links with health)
and will stress the nutritional aspects of agriculture.
3. Advocate for long‐term investment in nutrition‐ and health‐focused agriculture programs
(a) Ensure adequate time in nutrition‐ and health‐focused agriculture programs to allow for
measurable impact. The impact of new food varieties, food fortification, and other interventions
on community health is hard to assess in the short term. The majority of successful integrated
programs (such as the Micronutrient and Health (MICAH) project and the Ekwendeni Hospital)
are long‐term (at least 10 to 15 years). Five‐year programs for irrigation are too short for a
country with only one rainy season.
(b) Designate funding for research, taking into account the long‐term nature of agricultural research.
(c) Incorporate the role of agriculture for improved nutrition and health in primary and secondary
education curricula to bring awareness to children, their parents, and future generations. Bring
together the young and the old in discussion groups on nutrition to benefit from the sociallearning
mix in community‐based interventions. The Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools can be
important avenues to promote nutrition through school gardens.
(d) Maintain awareness of the key determinants of nutritional status. Promote awareness of
household nutritional food security, quality of care, and a healthy environment, using an
interdisciplinary approach, such as through analysis of gender issues in household
decisionmaking, to complement scientific research.

C. Target Research and Technology to Improve Nutrition and Health
1. Breed crops and animals for better nutrition and health
Encourage researchers to think not only in terms of quantity (higher yield), but also diversity (the six
food groups), quality (nutrient rich, with protein and micronutrients), safety, and acceptability
(reduced toxicity, palatability, cooking time, customary eating preferences, methods of production,
processing, storage and preserving). Biofortification should be prioritized with these factors in mind.
2. Build feedback mechanisms into research
(a) Promote participatory approaches from design through implementation, monitoring, and
evaluation of agriculture‐nutrition‐health research and technologies, by engaging farmers as
partners, not beneficiaries. Encourage already‐existing approaches to building nutrition
awareness into agriculture, such as Farmer Field schools, the Agriculture Research and
Development Programme (ARDEP) model, Innovation Platforms, Farmer‐to‐Farmer Extension,
and Family Nutrition Groups, using dialogue‐based teaching that considers the needs of
households and communities.
(b) Document and share information in order to fill the knowledge gaps. This will allow for learning
and building on past successes, such as mainstreaming gender, based on approaches used by
other programs (such as the National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Coalition (National WASH
Coalition) and Maternal and Child Health).
3. Encourage private sector contributions to local production and marketing development
(a) Increase private sector awareness of national and international policies, program standards, and
technology advancements that guide and improve reinforcement of production, value addition,
utilization and health practices.
(b) Offer incentives to the private sector (e.g., tax relief, modifications to licensing, import
regulations, and bureaucracy in the import process) to encourage the private sector to support
the agriculture, nutrition, and health linkages in research and technology.
(c) Support the private sector?s potential role in developing local production and marketing
systems?including developing complementary foods, creating greater food diversity, adding
value in processing, and involving millers as partners in the value chain?using multiple
communication channels that link farmers with retailers, processors to consumers, etc. If
properly overseen, private companies can conduct effective social marketing.
4. Improve performance in monitoring production and processing standards
(a) Build capacity in accredited laboratories to promote adherence to standards in processed foods.
(b) Encourage private investment in upgrading Malawi?s ability to test processed products.
(c) Develop an annual report on progress achieved in these areas.

Materials related to the ?Unleashing Agriculture?s Potential for Improved Nutrition and Health in
Malawi? conference can be found at www.malawi2011.ifpri.info
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