MSU Agricultural Economics  Research > Food Security III > Policy Syntheses > No. 48

AN ACTION PLAN TO STRENGTHEN LINKAGES BETWEEN AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH AND IMPROVED CHILDHOOD NUTRITION(1)

by

James Tefft, John Staatz, and Christopher Penders

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Food Security II Cooperative Agreement between U.S. Agency for International Development, Global Bureau, Economic Growth Center, Office of Agriculture and Food Security and Department of Agricultural Economics, Michigan State University

BACKGROUND: Over the last fifteen years, Mali's agricultural sector has grown at an annual rate of 3.9%. Since the devaluation of the CFA franc in 1994, the cotton and rice sectors have expanded even faster, growing at rates of more than 9%.

Despite these positive trends, recent nutrition surveys suggest alarming levels of childhood malnutrition. According to the 1995/96 DHS study, 30% of Malian children aged 0-35 months are chronically malnourished, 23% suffer from acute malnutrition, and 40% are underweight. These findings show that Mali ranks poorest in childhood nutritional status among the 20 Sub- Saharan countries for which comparable studies are available. Childhood malnutrition rates do not significantly differ from region to region or from urban areas to rural zones. Other data sources from the previous 10 years show similar or increasing rates that suggest childhood malnutrition is a chronic, long-term problem.

The paradox of seemingly persistent malnutrition in the face of strong agricultural growth raises the question of what actions are needed to reinforce the benefits of agricultural-led growth to improved nutrition, and what the relationship is between increased agricultural production and improved food security, as measured in terms of nutritional status of children under three years old.

OBJECTIVES AND METHODS: USAID/Mali, as part of its strategic objectives to improve the welfare of Malian youth and consequently the productive capacity of the Malian agricultural economy, is launching a research/outreach project that seeks to support current efforts of the Government of the Republic of Mali (GRM) to reduce child malnutrition. The Food Security II Cooperative Agreement at Michigan State University (MSU), in collaboration with the recently created Food and Nutrition Monitoring Division (Division Suivi de la Situation Alimentaire et Nutritionnelle - DSSAN) of the Planning and Statistics Unit (CPS) of the Ministry of Health (MSPAS), and the Institut du Sahel (INSAH), will coordinate the project's research and outreach activities.

This policy brief is the first in a series of bulletins to be published throughout the project to disseminate key project findings and recommendations. This first synthesis describes the project objectives and calendar of activities.

The primary aim of the project is:

The proposed research/outreach will take place in two phases:

ACTIVITIES:

Phase I: Exploratory Research

The first phase of the research will consist of several steps and will be done collaboratively by MSU campus- and INSAH-based staff and researchers from several Malian ministries and the Institut du Sahel.

The result of the first phase of the research will be a report, which will lay out what is known about agricultural production-childhood malnutrition linkages in Mali, what the knowledge gaps are, and a strategy of applied research and outreach to fill the gaps. The report will also discuss, how, on the basis of the findings either from the preliminary or the more in-depth research of the second phase, action programs can be designed to strengthen the positive effects of agricultural-led income on child nutritional status.

First phase results will be presented at a national workshop in Bamako early in 2000 and will serve as the basis for developing a research and action plan for the second phase of the project.

Phase II: In-Depth Research and Action Plan

Phase II will involve developing and carrying out the plans for in-depth research to test the key hypotheses, writing reports and outreach materials to present the results to key policy makers, and on the basis of the findings, possibly developing action plans for programs to improve the nutritional payoff of agricultural-led income growth. We anticipate that Phase II will last 18 months.

It is likely that the Phase II in-depth work will involve at least some household-level research. It would be preferable if it could be integrated with an ongoing or planned survey at the DNSI, IER, CMDT or Ministry of Health (e.g., adding an anthropometric component to an ongoing farm production/marketing survey; adding agriculture-related questions to a budget-consumption-anthropometric survey or to the planned World Bank-financed micro-nutrient survey). Yet until the results of the first phase are known, it is premature to specify a detailed research design. It is also possible, based on the Phase I report and preliminary Phase II results, that specific action plans to improve nutritional status can be developed.

The overall anticipated output will be improved understanding of agricultural production-nutrition relationships in Mali, which will permit the design of more effective nutrition-interventions and agricultural productivity programs. Phase II outputs will include a report detailing the relationships between growth in agricultural production and nutrition as well as identifying strategies to improve the effects of agricultural-led growth on childhood nutrition. These could include, for example, plans for self-taxation at the commune level of farmers' agricultural incomes to finance improved health and water facilities and nutrition education programs. Key findings will be disseminated in policy syntheses and in meetings throughout the project with Malian and donor policy makers to obtain feedback on directions for future work.

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*Work for this summary was conducted under the Food Security II Cooperative Agreement (PCE-A-00-97-00044-00) between Michigan State University and the United States Agency for International Development, through the Office of Agriculture and Food Security in the Economic Growth Center of the Global Bureau (G/EG/AFS). Supplemental funding for this research was also provided to the FS II Cooperative Agreement by USAID/Mali.

Tefft and Penders are Visiting Specialists, and Staatz is professor, in the Department of Agricultural Economics at MSU. The views expressed in this document are exclusively those of the authors.

1. This project is being coordinated jointly by Michigan State University, the Institut du Sahel (INSAH/CILSS), and the Division Suivi de la Situation Alimentaire et Nutririonnelle (DSSAN) of the Cellule de Planification et de Statistique (CPS) in the Ministere de la Sante, des Personnes Agees et de la Solidarite (MSPAS). Other collaborators include the Institut d' Rurale (IER), the Direction Nationale de la Statistique et de l'Informatique II Cooperative Agreement managed by USAID's Global Bureau (G/EGAD/AFS).