Agriculture for improved nutrition: the current research landscape

Food Nutr Bull. 2013 Dec;34(4):369-77. doi: 10.1177/156482651303400401.


Background: Concern about food security and its effect on persistent undernutrition has increased interest in how agriculture could be used to improve nutritional outcomes in developing countries. Yet the evidence base for the impact of agricultural interventions targeted at improved nutrition is currently poor.

Objective: To map the extent and nature of current and planned research on agriculture for improved nutrition in order to identify gaps where more research might be useful.

Methods: The research, which was conducted from April to August 2012, involved developing a conceptual framework linking agriculture and nutrition, identifying relevant research projects and programs, devising and populating a "template" with details of the research projects in relation to the conceptual framework, classifying the projects, and conducting a gap analysis.

Results: The study identified a large number of research projects covering a broad range of themes and topics. There was a strong geographic focus on sub-Saharan Africa, and many studies were explicitly concerned with nutritional impacts on women and children. Although the study revealed a diverse and growing body of research, it also identified research gaps. Few projects consider the entire evidence chain linking agricultural input or practice to nutritional outcomes. There is comparatively little current research on indirect effects of agriculture on nutrition, or the effect of policies or governance, rather than technical interventions. Most research is focused on undernutrition and small farmer households, and few studies target consumers generally, urban populations, or nutrition-related non-communicable diseases. There is very little work on the cost-effectiveness of agricultural interventions.

Conclusions: On the basis of these findings, we make suggestions for research investment and for broader engagement of researchers and disciplines in developing approaches to design and evaluate agricultural programs for improved nutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Food Supply
  • Humans
  • Malnutrition / prevention & control*
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Research / trends*
  • Research Design
  • Rural Population