This is one of 50 Harvesting Nutrition project case studies. Harvesting Nutrition was a contest held in 2012 and 2013 that showcased active projects working to improve the impact of agriculture and/or food security on nutrition outcomes. Co-sponsors were SecureNutrition, Save the Children UK, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Learn More.
The project aims to enhance legume yields and yields of sequential crops, and to diversify cropping patterns from mono-cropping of cereals to rotation or intercropping with legumes. Enhanced yields and crop diversity should in turn contribute to enhanced food security and improved nutritional value of diets. The project engaged with nutrition initiatives in the impact zones to teach and inform farmers about the nutritional benefits of the legumes and to demonstrate various recipes to enhance home consumption and improve nutrition security of the targeted households.
Impact of project:
A comparative study in northern Ghana shows that children between 2 and 5 years old of N2Africa participants had a more nutrient adequate diet compared with non-N2Africa participants, for children under 2 years of age there was no difference. No differences in nutritional status were found. Female N2Africa participants and N2Africa participants who received training on soybean preparation mostly used the legume yield for home consumption; male N2Africa participants mostly used the yield for sales. It is unclear if (and how) improved sales lead to improved nutrition. Results from a study in Western Kenya are expected in January 2014. Preliminary results in Kenya show that home consumption of soybean is high among N2Africa participants (mainly among participants who received training on soybean preparation), partly because they appreciate the taste and nutritional value and partly because of a lack of access to markets and/or low prices offered.
Why this project is a Good Practice example:
N2Africa is a large-scale project, working together with many partners and therefore able to reach many smallholder farmers. Farming is the mainstay of many rural households and so often the only means to access of food and income. Enhancing agricultural productivity by cultivating legume crops potentially improves the nutrition security of the household, directly and/or indirectly. Recent review studies indicate a lack of data showing the translation of improved agricultural productivity to improved nutrition and health of household members. N2Africa is a perfect entry point to unravel the potential pathways through which enhanced agricultural productivity may improve nutritional status and provide necessary information on how to strengthen this link within this project and other projects. Based on the case study in Northern Ghana, the effect of N2Africa activities on nutrition could be improved through targeting of female farmers and to provide trainings on soybean preparation methods (including nutrition education component).N2AFRICA is a large scale, science-based “research-in-development” project focused on putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers growing legume crops in Africa. N2AFRICA is funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Howard G. Buffet Foundation. It is led by Wageningen University together with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and has many partners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
At the end of the 4-year project we will have: identified niches for targeting nitrogen fixing legumes tested multi-purpose legumes to provide food, animal feed, and improved soil fertility promoted the adoption of improved legume varieties supported the development of inoculum production capacity through collaboration with private sector partners developed and strengthened capacity for legumes research and technology dissemination.
Impact evaluation in progress
- Design: set nutrition objective from the beginning, even if not directly a nutrition project. And start with nutrition baseline study to allow for better evaluation of impact on nutrition afterwards.
- Implementation: not all farmers benefit to the same extent, variability in yields. Some able to double yields or more, some farmers hardly increase yields. Partly due to agro-ecological and socio-economic factors, partly due to late delivery of inputs. In addition, technologies promoted should be available on the market to ensure sustainability of intervention. Project could have done better here.
- Evaluation: study showed that agricultural interventions should target female farmers to directly increase food availability in the household (and diversity of the diet by introducing a new food). Furthermore, education on preparation methods and general nutrition education seems to enhance the potential effect of improved agricultural production. When male farmers are targeted the link between increased production and increased food intake is less clear and more indirect as male farmers focus more on sales of legumes. Thus, although the link between agriculture and nutrition seems obvious, it takes many steps to go from an agricultural intervention to increased productivity to improved nutrition security. The intermediate steps need to be investigated to achieve nutrition specific goals by agricultural projects. Activities which could be undertaken to make the N2Africa project more nutrition-sensitive include: specifically target households with children under 2 years, include legume varieties with high nutritional values (high in iron and low in phytates) and collaborate with health sector and WASH projects (use existing delivery structures, knowledge and experience)
Funders: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Howard G. Buffet Foundation
Primary Contact: Ilse de Jager, Research assistant (nutritionist) Wageningen University
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kinshasa), Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe
Project Dates: Started in 2010 and continue into a second phase of 5 years in January 2014
Interventions: Target the vulnerable and improve equity, Facilitate production diversification, Improve processing, storage and preservation,
Project Stage: Ongoing activities
Geographic Coverage: Regional