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publication June 9, 2020

Nutrition smart agriculture: When Good Nutrition is Good Business

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Photo credit: i_am_zews, Shutterstock


STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Nutrition smart agriculture is a set of agriculture and agro-processing technologies and practices that contribute to the improvement of nutrition and increase of the farm and agribusiness-level productivity and revenue.
  • Nutrition smart agriculture technologies and practices are focused on primary production, and agri-food processing and distribution, where farmers and agri-businesses make decisions on what and how to produce. Nutrition-smart agriculture supports the overall Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture agenda across the food system.
  • Actions taken in the agricultural sector impact people’s nutrition—the cost of inaction is staggeringly high for a country’s economy and human capital. Not leveraging the agriculture sector to contribute to nutrition outcomes is a missed opportunity.

Nutrition smart agriculture (NSmartAg) is a set of agriculture and agro-processing technologies and practices that contribute to the improvement of nutrition and increase of the farm and  agribusiness-level productivity and revenue.

There are four main steps in the identification of nutrition smart agriculture opportunities (Figure 1).

  • Step 1 involves the identification of the local malnutrition problems from existing sources;
  • Step 2 includes an analysis to extract nutrient consumption levels for a set of nutrients associated with the identified malnutrition problems and posing considerable health burdens;
  • Step 3 uses the data and analysis from Step 2 to identify food groups for further investigation; and
  • Step 4 concludes with the identification of a sample menu of options of validated nutrition smart agriculture practices and technologies.

Figure 1. NSmartAg methodology steps

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How is nutrition smart agriculture different from ‘nutrition sensitive agriculture’?

Nutrition sensitive agriculture is a holistic, multi-sectoral effort to ensure the production of a variety of affordable, nutritious, culturally appropriate and safe foods in adequate quantity and quality to meet the dietary requirements of populations in a sustainable manner.

Nutrition smart agriculture is a subset of nutrition-sensitive agriculture. It is focused on the production side of the food value chain, which is where farmers and agribusinesses decide ‘what’ and ‘how’ to produce and where the agriculture sector designs and implements actions and policies to improve nutrition.  NSmartAg is an approach that identifies practices and technologies and channels public investments in agriculture towards a double objective: improving the bottom line for farmers and agribusiness while also contributing to improve  nutrition of the local population. This approach is a building block of food systems that promote healthy people, a healthy planet and healthy economies.

Although there are existing agriculture technologies and practices, such as biofortification, that can be considered “nutrition smart” (meeting the double objective), this concept is new and thus not always explicitly supported by existing agriculture public policies and programs. 

The Country Profiles developed for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Haiti, and Mozambique  provide a snapshot of nutrition smart agriculture technologies and practices across the country and identify entry points for their adoption for  improved outcomes for farmers and agri-entrepreneurs.