Nutrition in Agricultural Extension
For those of us working in the field of agricultural development, it’s hard to avoid the groundswell of attention being paid to nutrition. Some in the agricultural sector find this out-of-step with the reality of agricultural production, an extra hurdle thrust on agriculture by well-intended and ill-informed public health and nutrition advocates. Others have embraced the opportunity to shift the sector’s focus to consider more than yield alone. INGENAES project staff have frequently confronted both responses, and our field-level experience confirms that both are appropriate.
Our experience developing institutional capacity to integrate gender and nutrition has led us to confront several recurring themes: extension staff already have multiple responsibilities, and approaches that the health sector uses to influence behavior are not always relevant to smallholder farmers whose livelihoods depend on robust markets for their harvest. Given these realities, we’ve identified ways in which nutrition can complement what extension staff are already doing in a given locale, and we’ve developed methods for promoting the production and consumption of nutritious foods that are also demanded by local markets.
The INGENAES project has developed a robust library of practical resources that meet the needs of extension providers. The materials highlighted in this newsletter include tip sheets covering nutrition basics, training manuals replete with participatory activities, and nutrition-sensitive messages developed by the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture for that country’s agricultural extension services.
As a field, we are moving from a conceptual understanding of effective linkages between agriculture and nutrition to application. INGENAES discusses how agricultural extension services are foundational to food and nutrition security. They reach millions of farmers and represent largely untapped potential for influencing production and consumption decisions which could, in turn, affect the health and nutrition status of populations, particularly in rural areas. We hope that the resources highlighted in this special edition update will provide value both to those who are resistant to yet another passing fad as well as those seeking to seize the moment!