Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN)
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 Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) project is a collaborative effort between Concern Worldwide and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and aims to reduce the prevalence of stunting in children through integrated agriculture, health and nutrition interventions during this critical period from conception until 24 months of age. Concern Worldwide is the main project implementer and IFPRI is leading the monitoring, learning and evaluation (MLE) component. Other stakeholders include Mumbwa Child Development Agency (a local community-based organization), the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, and the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health.
The RAIN project supports effective agriculture interventions to increase year-round availability of and access to good-quality foods at household level through improved production at homestead level, and to optimize health and nutrition through delivery of social behavior change communication around optimal nutrition and health practices. In doing so, it will generate evidence of the best approaches and document optimal impact pathways. A unique facet of this project is that it will work to develop a model that realigns the actors at the District level who are involved in service delivery to promote synergy in their work and optimize impact on stunting. The approach focuses on addressing the multi-sectoral causes of malnutrition and on learning how to effectively address the challenges of multi-sectoral collaboration.
The project rigorously evaluates the impact of the RAIN model, monitors process indicators to understand the intended impact pathways, and documents and disseminates learning from the project at local, national and international level.
Impact of project:
Preliminary data shows very encouraging results, with increased production of various micronutrient rich crops, such as green leafy vegetables and increased dietary diversity during both the hunger as the post-harvest season. Against a background of people concentrating on growing cash crops, mainly maize and cotton, this change is a notable one.
Literature has identified that gender is a “key element” in the linkage between agriculture and nutrition. In a patriarchal society where men take the lead in decision making, even decisions on land usage and what crops to grow are made by men. Through the project’s trainings on gender, both men and women have been sensitized on the importance of allocating sufficient land to grow nutritious crops, as well as on the need for men to support women in their various agricultural and nutrition activities. A remarkable change has been noted in men helping their wives to construct and water gardens and in supporting their wives in attending ante-natal and post-natal care services, all of which are crucial to sustained good health.
The establishment of the District Coordination Nutrition Committee is the first of its kind in Zambia and has brought on board various players in the agriculture, health and nutrition sectors. The Committee has prepared a multi-sectoral district plan which aims to reduce the prevalence of stunting in the district. This plan will be funded under the national Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Fund.
Why this project is a Good Practice example:
The recent Lancet series (June, 2013) on maternal and child health provide solid evidence for a number of interventions which, if scaled up, can reduce the prevalence of chronic malnutrition. The RAIN project focuses on a number of these interventions such as the promotion of adequate breastfeeding practices in infants, improved complementary feeding practices and establishing linkages with health facilities in order to receive micronutrient supplements such as vitamin a and iron/folic acid providing a good base for the reduction of chronic malnutrition.
A unique component of the RAIN project is the `coordination and alignment` of the Zambian agriculture and health sector activities at district and community levels to better address malnutrition with the understanding that coordination across sectors will improve project impact, ensure sustainability and encourage replication. Through reflective learning processes designed to bring the sectors together, new and innovative ways are being explored to promote coordination among the agriculture, health and community development sectors, starting at district level and then cascading down to extension workers at community levels.
Gender is recognized in the project as crucial to maximize the nutrition impact of agriculture & nutrition interventions. Both community and group level gender sensitization focusing on the relation between gender, agriculture and nutrition are being conducted on a large scale. The buy-in from men provides a good learning point of changing perceptions, behaviours and practices. The gender component has started to show results, whereby beneficiaries indicate positive changes in their husbands conduct e.g. by helping with building animal shelter, assisting with homestead garden watering, improved access to land and accompanying pregnant women and children to the health centre. These are examples worth emulating and replicating.
Impact evaluation in progress Lessons Learned: An important lesson learned is the significance of a proper context assessment during the design phase of the project. During the implementation phase of the project, we encountered a number of challenges such as the lack of water availability during the dry season for homestead gardens and the low availability of Open Pollinated Variety (OPV) seeds in Zambia, which are important elements for the sustainability of the project.
Another lesson learned is the importance of coordinating and aligning activities at district and community level in order to better address malnutrition. The different government sectors including health, agriculture, community development, education and local government have started considering nutrition as an important developmental issue and it has become part of the multi sectoral district nutrition development plan, which will be funded in 2014. Further, it has also been learnt that even the most deeply entrenched perceptions and beliefs can be challenged and changed. The results on gender and the growing of men in supporting their wives provide hope for possible replication in another setting.
The project rigorously evaluates the impact of the RAIN model and therefore, many lessons will be drawn at the end of the project. The project has a research design, comparing areas with agriculture only with areas with agriculture andnutrition/health activities interventions and a control area. A baseline survey was conducted and two process evaluations (PE) will be conducted in order to document the processes by which the intended impact on the reduction of stunting is achieved.
Funders: Irish Aid & Kerry Group
Primary Contact: Marjolein Mwanamwenge, Nutrition coordinator, Concern Worldwide Zambia
Project Dates: Start: 2011, End 2015
Interventions: Incorporate explicit nutrition objectives and indicators, Target the vulnerable and improve equity, Empower women, Target Population: Children under 3, Pregnant/lactating women (PLW),
Project Stage: Beginning of implementation
Geographic Coverage: State/Province