Going beyond food aid: the challenge of improving nutrition

December 3, 2012

"The World Bank identifies five 'pathways' (pdf) that link food production to nutrition: subsistence-oriented production, income-oriented production for sale in markets, increased agricultural production, empowerment of women to control household food and health, and macroeconomic growth.

But in practice, one is favoured over another. According to SUN, a 2005 Ethiopian health survey (pdf) found that chronic malnutrition was highest in its most agriculturally productive regions. The inference was large-scale production can lead directly to export, or simply a lack of local food diversity. It is a problem that Samuel Hauenstein Swan, senior policy adviser, Action Against Hunger, recognises. 'Malawi promoted corn – it didn't dramatically improve the food security of the people, but it dramatically improved the exports. They are one of the big maize exporters now. But did that reduce the numbers of stunting? Not really ... ministers of agriculture are still focussed on these very few grains [while] nutritious crops like sweet potatoes are not easily commercial.'"