Reshaping Agriculture for Nutrition and Health

Intl Food Policy Res Inst

The fundamental purpose of agriculture is not just to produce food and raw materials, but also to grow healthy, well-nourished people. One of the sector’s most important tasks then is to provide food of sufficient quantity and quality to feed and nourish the world’s population sustainably so that all people can lead healthy, productive lives. Achieving this goal will require closer collaboration across the sectors of agriculture, nutrition, and health, which have long operated in separate spheres with little recognition of how their actions affect each other. It is time for agriculture, nutrition, and health to join forces in pursuit of the common goal of improving human well-being. In Reshaping Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, leading experts, practitioners, and policymakers explore the links among agriculture, nutrition, and health and identify ways to strengthen related policies and programs. The chapters in this book were originally commissioned as background papers or policy briefs for the conference “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health,” facilitated by the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2020 Vision Initiative in New Delhi, India, in February 2011.
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About the author

Shenggen Fan is director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington, DC.

Rajul Pandya-Lorch is head of IFPRI’s 2020 Vision Initiative and chief of staff in the Director General’s Office

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Additional Information

Intl Food Policy Res Inst
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Published on
Dec 31, 2012
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Best For
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Social Science / Agriculture & Food
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Many development programs that aim to alleviate poverty and improve investments in human capital consider women’s empowerment a key pathway by which to achieve impact and often target women as their main beneficiaries. Despite this, women’s empowerment dimensions are often not rigorously measured and are at times merely assumed. This paper starts by reflecting on the concept and measurement of women’s empowerment and then reviews some of the structural interventions that aim to influence underlying gender norms in society and eradicate gender discrimination. It then proceeds to review the evidence of the impact of three types of interventions—cash transfer programs, agricultural interventions, and microfinance programs—on women’s empowerment, nutrition, or both.

Qualitative evidence on conditional cash transfer (CCT) programs generally points to positive impacts on women’s empowerment, although quantitative research findings are more heterogenous. CCT programs produce mixed results on long-term nutritional status, and very limited evidence exists of their impacts on micronutrient status. The little evidence available on unconditional cash transters (UCT) indicates mixed impacts on women’s empowerment and positive impacts on nutrition; however, recent reviews comparing CCT and UCT programs have found little difference in terms of their effects on stunting and they have found that conditionality is less important than other factors, such as access to healthcare and child age and sex. Evidence of cash transfer program impacts depending on the gender of the transfer recipient or on the conditionality is also mixed, although CCTs with non-health conditionalities seem to have negative impacts on nutritional status. The impacts of programs based on the gender of the transfer recipient show mixed results, but almost no experimental evidence exists of testing gender-differentiated impacts of a single program.

Agricultural interventions—specifically home gardening and dairy projects—show mixed impacts on women’s empowerment measures such as time, workload, and control over income; but they demonstrate very little impact on nutrition. Implementation modalities are shown to determine differential impacts in terms of empowerment and nutrition outcomes. With regard to the impact of microfinance on women’s empowerment, evidence is also mixed, although more recent reviews do not find any impact on women’s empowerment. The impact of microfinance on nutritional status is mixed, with no evidence of impact on micronutrient status. Across all three types of programs (cash transfer programs, agricultural interventions, and microfinance programs), very little evidence exists on pathways of impact, and evidence is often biased toward a particular region.

The paper ends with a discussion of the findings and remaining evidence gaps and an outline of recommendations for research. 

Michael Pollan, the bestselling author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, Food Rules, and How to Change Your Mind, explores the previously uncharted territory of his own kitchen in Cooked. 

Now a docu-series streaming on Netflix, starring Pollan as he explores how cooking transforms food and shapes our world. Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney exectuve produces the four-part series based on Pollan's book, and each episode will focus on a different natural element: fire, water, air, and earth. 

In Cooked, Pollan discovers the enduring power of the four classical elements—fire, water, air, and earth—to transform the stuff of nature into delicious things to eat and drink. Apprenticing himself to a succession of culinary masters, Pollan learns how to grill with fire, cook with liquid, bake bread, and ferment everything from cheese to beer.

Each section of Cooked tracks Pollan’s effort to master a single classic recipe using one of the four elements. A North Carolina barbecue pit master tutors him in the primal magic of fire; a Chez Panisse–trained cook schools him in the art of braising; a celebrated baker teaches him how air transforms grain and water into a fragrant loaf of bread; and finally, several mad-genius “fermentos” (a tribe that includes brewers, cheese makers, and all kinds of picklers) reveal how fungi and bacteria can perform the most amazing alchemies of all. The reader learns alongside Pollan, but the lessons move beyond the practical to become an investigation of how cooking involves us in a web of social and ecological relationships. Cooking, above all, connects us.

The effects of not cooking are similarly far reaching. Relying upon corporations to process our food means we consume large quantities of fat, sugar, and salt; disrupt an essential link to the natural world; and weaken our relationships with family and friends. In fact, Cooked argues, taking back control of cooking may be the single most important step anyone can take to help make the American food system healthier and more sustainable. Reclaiming cooking as an act of enjoyment and self-reliance, learning to perform the magic of these everyday transformations, opens the door to a more nourishing life.
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