Christine Chege (left) visiting a group of women processing and selling nutrient-dense products in Katsina in north Nigeria.

Over the last six months, a team of researchers from International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)’s Sustainable Food Systems initiative has worked intensively with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to improve the impact of rural development projects in five countries in Asia and Africa. The work aims to increase the nutritional impact of the IFAD investment portfolio in value-chain projects, representing about 70 percent of the overall IFAD investment portfolio, in those two regions.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized agency of the United Nations dedicated to eradicating poverty and hunger in rural areas. For the last 41 years, IFAD has been providing loans and financial support to low- and middle-income countries, essentially to support rural infrastructure and agriculture development projects. Last year IFAD approached CIAT with the intent to draw on the center’s growing expertise in sustainable food systems and nutrition-sensitive value chain analysis to help mainstream nutrition into their global loan portfolio.

The countries that have benefited so far from this technical support include some of the poorest countries in the world (Niger, Burkina Faso and Bangladesh) and some more economically advanced and rapidly transforming countries such as Nigeria or Vietnam.

The CIAT team included experts from the Asian regional office in Hanoi, Vietnam (Brice Even and Ricardo Hernández), the African regional office in Nairobi, Kenya (Christine Chege), and from headquarters in Cali, Colombia (Matthias Jäger and Chris Béné), plus one external consultant (Christine Oriol).

Matthias Jäger, Christine Chege, and Ricardo Hernández during a focus group discussion on organic horticulture with a women-led producer group supported by IFAD in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The armed escort that accompanied the CIAT team during their field work in the Tahoua Region of Niger.

The team spent several weeks in the five countries between September and December 2018, assessing the national and regional status of nutrition, food security, and diet diversity, and establishing how IFAD investments – essentially through specific projects – could be improved and made more “nutrition sensitive.” The analysis included literature review, discussions with national IFAD teams involved in the implementation of the different projects, key informant interviews with UN organizations (FAO, UNICEF, WFP, etc.), development agencies (European Union, USAID), and private sector (e.g. GAIN), as well as visits and interviews of beneficiaries of those projects (Photo 1 and Photo 2) sometimes in regions where security is an issue and requires armed escort as in Niger (Photo 3).

 

“Overall, the aggregate budget of the five different projects that were included in the assessment is worth more than half a billion dollars. The impact of this work is thus expected to be substantial.”

Chris Béné

Senior Policy Expert

The CIAT team is currently finishing the five country reports and will get involved in one regional workshop organized by IFAD in early 2019 in West Africa to distill the lessons learned from this first series of analyses. This work is aligned with CIAT’s updated Strategy highlighting the importance of nutrition as a key objective for development and with the mission of the forthcoming Alliance between CIAT and Bioversity International. It also supports closely the work of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) led by IFPRI.

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