Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The beginning of a dialogue: Responsive agriculture-nutrition research

by Samar Zuberi

How can agriculture and food-related policies and interventions be better designed to improve nutrition outcomes, particularly for young women and girls? Dialogue around this question was started at a workshop hosted by the Collective for Social Science Research / Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) on 15 April in Karachi. The workshop brought together diverse stakeholders in agriculture and nutrition including senior officials from provincial governments, academic researchers, representatives of international development partners, and civil society organizations and activists. 

The day was structured around knowledge sharing and engaging participants in the agriculture-nutrition debate. LANSA researchers outlined their research plans with the explicit goal of getting feedback and ensuring our research is responsive to the priorities of stakeholders. 

Haris Gazdar, LANSA’s lead researcher in Pakistan and Director of the Collective for Social Science Research, set out the aims of the workshop. He noted the provincial level of government had emerged as a key node for nutrition policy - hence the focus of the workshop on provincial stakeholders. Another event is planned to focus on federal government stakeholders and representatives of international organisations based in the capital Islamabad. 

Julia Powell from the Institute of Development Studies, UK introduced LANSA to the audience after which two Pakistan-LANSA research studies were presented by Mysbah Balagamwala and Rashid Mehmood. The first highlighted women’s work in agriculture and the potential impact this could have on nutrition outcomes. The second examined food-based approaches to addressing undernutrition through studying agri-food value chains. I presented Initial findings of interviews with agriculture and nutrition influencers and decision makers. The findings summarized perceptions of the political context, knowledge and evidence, and capacity issues related to the development of nutrition-sensitive agriculture in Pakistan. These findings highlighted that the policy landscape with respect to nutrition was beginning to advance, while agriculture’s role in improving nutrition outcomes still needed to be cemented.

Government officials from four of the provinces presented on their agricultural programmes and discussed with participants the potential of these programmes to incorporate specific nutrition objectives, exploring how evidence translates into action. Dr. Nihaluddin Marri, Deputy Director Agricultural Research Institute Tando Jam, spoke about Agriculture Research in Sindh and said its main objective was to increase farm incomes to improve people’s quality of life, which included their consumption of nutritious food. Two Additional Secretaries from the Agriculture Department in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, Humayun Khan and Imran Khan, respectively, spoke about relevant agriculture programmes in their provinces. Ms. Durre Seemi, Deputy Director Women’s Wing Agriculture Extension, Balochistan provided an overview of the work the Women’s Wing did and how their focus on food preparation, and preservation affected food security and nutrition within households. 

The workshop finished on a lively note, with participants generating research priorities through spirited discussion. The numerous points raised by participants are reflected in the themes for the call for proposals that LANSA is funding. LANSA’s aim for the Call is to support research outside the consortium from partners with similar objectives. Some of these priorities such as the mapping of power in the agriculture and nutrition landscape and considering the role of climate change and its effect on the nutrition-agriculture link have been incorporated into the proposed themes for the LANSA responsive window.  The LANSA team in Pakistan sees the workshop as a step towards fostering enduring conversations among and between researchers and practitioners working on the linkages between agriculture and nutrition. 
This blog originally appeared on LANSA's blog in May 2014. 

Samar Zuberi is a Research Associate at the Collective for Social Science Research and Research Uptake Officer Pakistan for LANSA