Knowledge for a sustainable world

Development Programme:
Food Systems for Improved Nutrition


Understanding how dynamic relationships among maternal agency, maternal workload and the food environment affect food choices
2018-2020, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UK Department for International Development
Agricultural interventions can benefit women by increasing their social status, agency, purchasing powers and access to nutritious foods; however, the potential for unintended negative impacts on women’s time availability to acquire and prepare food and care for children is often overlooked. This study in rural Uganda evaluates the impacts of agricultural labour-saving devices on maternal food choices. A combination of traditional and innovative methods (including wearable cameras and GPS) are being used to document women’s diets, time-use, personal and external food environments, agency and social networks. Focus group discussions and in-depth interviews will validate and contextualise data. The study aims to develop a tool to predict where agricultural devices might enhance nutritional benefits, and how to change food environments to improve food choices. This tool is intended to guide the design of nutrition-sensitive agricultural investments.

African Postharvest Losses Information System Plus (APHLIS+)
2015-2020, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Crop losses may occur at each of the multiple stages between harvest and consumption, including harvesting, transport, processing and storage, and are cumulatively termed postharvest losses. Both physical losses and deterioration in quality reduce the availability of nutrients in food systems of sub-Saharan Africa. Information on the scale and impact of these losses in low- and middle-income countries is currently sparse and costly to generate. Reliable figures are essential to guide targeted investments, monitor programmatic success and estimate food availability in food-insecure countries. The African Post-Harvest Losses Information System (APHLIS) project provided an online resource to estimate the weight losses of cereal grains in sub-Saharan Africa, at national and sub-national levels, for specific crops, climate factors and farm types. The current APHLIS+ project is estimating both the nutritional and financial impact of postharvest losses for an expanded range of crops, including pulses, roots and tubers, and banana and plantain. 

Nutritional Postharvest Loss Estimation Methodology (NUTRI-P-LOSS)
2016-2019, UK Department for International Development, Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions (IMMANA)
The NUTRI-P-LOSS project complements the nutritional objectives of APHLIS+, by developing a methodology to estimate nutritional losses occurring following the harvest of three key crops: maize, sweet potato and cowpea. This project is contributing to the predictive tool available through the APHLIS+ online platform, with an algorithm which draws on both physical weight losses (based on literature sources) and quality degradation (based on published and experimental data). Laboratory analyses conducted in this project are simulating the effect of insect damage on stored crops, and evaluating the resultant change in levels of macronutrients and selected micronutrients at different time points. Fieldwork is being used to validate laboratory findings. The approach employed in this study is intended to be adapted for use in other crops and settings.

Using Information Communication Technologies to understand the relationships between labour-saving agricultural innovations, women's time use and maternal and child nutrition outcomes
2016-2019, UK Department for International Development, Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions (IMMANA)
This project is assessing the feasibility and validity of digital tools for lifestyle data collection in low-income country settings, to evaluate the impacts of nutrition-sensitive agricultural interventions on women’s time use and infant diets. Two innovative tools are being assessed: (1) GPS-linked wearable cameras, which capture images at regular intervals throughout the day, and (2) a computerised interactive voice response diary, prompted by automated calls to participants’ mobile phone. These tools are being compared to conventional approaches (direct observation and interview-based 24-hour dietary and maternal time use recalls) to assess their potential to expand the types of data collected, and increase accuracy and scalability of data collection.

Value Chain Analysis for Economic Development (VCA4D)
2016-2022, European Commission, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)
Sustainable agriculture (including aquaculture) and fisheries remain key drivers of poverty eradication and sustainable development. This project underpins the EU commitment to develop nutritionally-sensitive agricultural value chains which benefit the poor, and harness opportunities offered by local and global markets to create decent jobs and add value to food products. Value chains encompass the sequence of processes from primary agricultural production, through processing, distribution and marketing, to end use. They constitute productive systems with the potential to influence human diets and nutrition on a large scale: both directly, through the supply of and demand for nutritious food items, and indirectly, through contributions to household income, national economies and gender empowerment. Around sixty individual value chains, including both plant- and animal-source foods, will be analysed through the VCA4D programme, with the aim of encouraging strategic investment and informing policy. The methodology includes specific consideration of the food and nutrition security implications of value chain development.

Developing pictorial methods to document seasonal variation in dietary diversity and available food resources in low-literacy settings in Tanzania
2018-2019, UK Department for International Development, Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions (IMMANA)
Accurate and accessible methods to collect dietary data across the year is vital to understand fluctuations in food security status in resource-poor settings, particularly in rural communities reliant on rainfed agriculture. Evaluating seasonal variation in food access is especially relevant for livestock-derived foods, known to be of high nutritive value but for which evidence to demonstrate positive nutritional impacts remains scarce. This study is testing the feasibility and validity of a picture-based research tool to collect monthly participant-recorded data on household diets and access to cow’s milk in cattle-keeping households in low-literacy communities of central Tanzania. The project is funded through a fellowship scheme for early-career researchers.

Diverseafood: Evaluating the potential of multi-trophic aquaculture to improve nutrition and ecosystem sustainability in the UK
2019-2021, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Seafood production through aquaculture has the potential to contribute to healthy and sustainable diets and help to tackle the rising burden of chronic malnutrition and non-communicable diseases in the United Kingdom, if environmental sustainability challenges and barriers to consumption can be addressed effectively. Diversifying production towards more sustainable species, such as seaweed, mussels and sea urchins, through Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture (IMTA), can have positive nutritional and environmental impacts. This project will evaluate the contribution of IMTA to the nutritional value of aquaculture-produced seafood and to the environmental sustainability of the sector, and will assess targeted strategies at the levels of business models, policies and consumer acceptance.

Integrated strategies for micronutrient deficiency reduction
(Food Fortification Advisory Services Research on Food Fortification)
2019-2021, European Commission
Micronutrient deficiencies have severe and far-reaching adverse effects on human health, including impaired physical and cognitive development, poor neonatal and maternal outcomes, and reduced work capacity. This project is the first of four inter-related projects aiming to strengthen national capacity and increase the impact of food fortification in low- and middle-income countries, alongside other strategies such as programmes to support dietary diversification. The project aims to determine how different approaches to combat micronutrient deficiencies (MNDs) can be combined to maximise impact, without increasing the risks of overconsumption of target micronutrients. The project will map the prevalence of MNDs in West Africa, assess current strategies to tackle MNDs, and evaluate responses from stakeholders in Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Senegal to potential approaches to enhance impact.

Public and private sector commitment to food fortification and biofortification
(Food Fortification Advisory Services Research on Food Fortification)
2019-2021, European Commission
The success and sustainability of national food fortification programmes and biofortification initiatives relies on effective engagement of both the public and private sectors. This project is the second of four inter-related projects to address micronutrient deficiencies through fortification strategies. It aims to identify sustainable and effective business models, particularly for small-scale operators, as well as incentives and challenges for public and private sector commitment to food fortification. The scope of the work includes fortification of staple foods and complementary foods for infants, and biofortification of seeds. The project will evaluate the effectiveness of existing business models, including by conducting a series of case studies in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Sweetpotato Action for Security and Health in Africa (SASHA II)
2014-2019, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties with high levels of pro-vitamin A are widely available, but further work is needed to support a consistent supply in low- to middle-income countries. Challenges in the affordability and reliability of electricity prevent long-term storage of fresh roots at low temperatures (as is done in high-income countries). This programme aims to develop appropriate and cost-effective technologies for storage of fresh roots in sub-Saharan Africa, both at medium-large scale to supply urban markets and processors and at smaller scale for individual households. The project also seeks to develop regional capacity to maintain nutritional quality and meet food safety standards in stored roots.


Enhancing nutrition security and incomes through adding value to indigenous vegetables in East and Central Uganda
2014-2017, European Commission, Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development (PAEPARD)
African indigenous vegetables are rich sources of many key vitamins and minerals to support good health, with potential benefits for nutritionally-vulnerable groups such as women of reproductive age and children under five years. This project sought to improve post-harvest handling and preservation of indigenous vegetables in Uganda, with the objectives of increasing both consumption and contributions to livelihoods. Key outputs of the project included identification and characterisation of plant varieties with longer shelf-life, adoption of improved processing and handing technologies, and a value chain study on processed indigenous vegetables.