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Agricultural interventions and nutrition: Lessons from the past and new evidence
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Globally, many poor households rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, and this remains true even when livelihoods are diversified. Poor households are also most vulnerable to undernutrition, including lack of micronutrients. Over the last decades, a variety of organizations have aimed to harness agriculture for nutrition. Agricultural approaches have the potential to substantially impact nutritional outcomes in a sustainable way, but there is insufficient understanding of the evidence base for this potential impact and of how best to achieve this potential. This chapter aims to consolidate the available evidence linking agricultural interventions to nutrition outcomes. First, the chapter describes five pathways through which agricultural interventions can impact nutrition: consumption of own production; increases in income; reductions in market prices; shifts in consumer preferences; and shifts in control of resources. Second, we review four types of studies that provide insights about links between agriculture and nutrition: early studies of agricultural commercialization; studies of women in agriculture; studies of horticultural interventions; and studies of livestock and aquaculture interventions. Consistent themes include the importance of integrating well-designed behaviour-change communications and careful consideration of gender dimensions. Third, we present two case studies that show how well-designed interventions can successfully diversify diets and/or impact micronutrient intakes and nutritional status outcomes; the second case study illustrates impact at scale. The review yields lessons for design of future interventions and for evaluation design, and identifies critical areas for future work, which include investigations of cost-effectiveness, scaling up processes and sustainability. (CAB Abstracts).