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Agriculture and Health Research in Action Seminar Series kicks off at LIDC

Dr. Anne-Marie Mayer from Concern Worldwide was the first speaker at the newly launched Agriculture and Health Research in Action Seminar Series organised by the Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research in Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH).  This series aims to foster discussion around the approaches and methodologies that can be used to research the links between agricultural production, food consumption, and the generation of health.

Anne-Marie Mayer talked about the design and rationale for Concern Worldwide's new project 'Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition' (RAIN) in Zambia, aiming to tackle mortality due to under-nutrition.

Under-nutrition remains a key development challenge: the number of hungry people has risen from 873 million to 925 million in five years, 186 million children under the age of five are stunted, and one third of all deaths in pre-schoolers can be attributed to under-nutrition. Under-nutrition is mainly due to household food insecurity, unhealthy household environment and inadequate care.
The speaker argued that various agriculture interventions can have a positive effect on nutrition, for instance introducing nutrient-rich crops, improving storage practices, promoting small-scale agro-processing. However, for agricultural interventions to have a tangible effect on nutrition, other factors must be taken into account, such as the need for behaviour change communication, the role of women, multiple causes of under-nutrition.
 
There are several ‘impact pathways’, that is ways in which agricultural interventions can affect nutrition, including:
1. Increasing household-level production for the household’s own consumption;
2. Increasing household-level production for sale in markets;
3. Reducing real food prices;
4. Empowering of women;
5. Contributing to national income and macroeconomic growth.
Concern Worldwide works towards hunger reduction through direct programmes and through advocacy. The five-year RAIN project located in the Mumbai District in Zambia aims to tackle the issue of access to nutritious foods, but also that of insufficient knowledge and uncoordinated policies. It aligns health, agriculture and nutrition interventions to prevent maternal and child under-nutrition. It is hoped that, once completed, the project can be scaled up to contribute to the attainment of MDG 1.
The project has started with formative research and a contextual analysis, in order to be able to fully appreciate multiple causes of under-nutrition in the district. It includes monitoring and evaluation (through indicators measured in the intervention and comparison group) throughout its duration and behaviour change communication is a strong integral component. Instead of replicating what already exists, the project draws on existing structures, e.g. government initiatives, and it brings together a range of partners, including government stakeholders, academia and NGOs.
 
The project consists of agricultural interventions (such as increasing homestead production and improving access to markets), health interventions (such as providing information to the population and training health workers), women’s empowerment activities, and a coordination of efforts at various levels, from the government down to communities.
The next seminar in the series will take place on 5 July and will focus on the role of fruit and vegetables in addressing poverty and malnutrition.
The Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH) is a new initiative established under a five-year £3.5m grant from The Leverhulme Trust to build a new inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary platform for integrating research in agriculture and health, with a focus on international development goals. This Centre is enabling researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, School of Oriental and African Studies, School of Pharmacy, Royal Veterinary College and their partners, to work together to develop unifying research approaches and methodologies that integrate agricultural and health research. LCIRAH is hosted and supported by LIDC.
More about LCIRAH