IFPRI (Value chains)

International Food Policy Research Institute

Leveraging value chains to improve nutrition: collaborative learning initiative on methods and metrics for improving the identification, design and evaluation of interventions

PI: Aulo Gelli
Partners: Jason Donovan (ICRAF), Mutinta Hambayi, Susanna Sandstorm, Nancy Aburto, David Ryckembusch (all World Food Programme), Noora Aberman, Summer Allen (both IFPRI)
Start date: 1 September 2015
Duration: 28 months
Value: £249,669
Countries of research: Malawi

Summary of project:

Emerging evidence on the nutrition double burden suggests income growth alone cannot solve the problem of malnutrition and may in fact create problems linked to overweight and obesity. The challenge from the nutrition perspective is how to sustainably improve diets, as well as other health related behaviours, across different low-income populations. 

In nutrition debates there is growing interest in the capacity of the private sector to contribute to improved nutrition outcomes. Discussions have incorporated thinking around value chain frameworks, which emerged in the late 1990s to help development agencies design interventions that responded to the needs of the private sector and contributed to development. Value chain approaches can provide useful frameworks to examine the food system and the potential to achieve improved nutrition by leveraging market-based systems. However, understanding the links between value chains and nutrition is complex, and very little evidence exists on the potential or the trade-offs involved. 

This project aims to operationalise and validate a multidisciplinary framework, including methods and metrics, to support the identification, design and evaluation of interventions in value chains for nutritious foods and improve the sustainability and effectiveness of the World Food Programme (WFP) programmes in Malawi. The project proposes to build on ongoing operational research between the CGIAR Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) programme and the WFP to provide generic and Malawi specific guidance on linking value chains to nutrition outcomes. 

The proposed activities will bring together nutrition and agricultural marketing experts alongside policy and programme stakeholders to address the following objectives:
•    Refine a multidisciplinary framework linking value chains to nutrition outcomes and apply it to WFP’s operations in Malawi. 
•    Develop and validate new theory-based methods and metrics to support the identification, design and evaluation of interventions that link value chains to nutrition.
•    Consolidate the evidence and validate research priorities from a multidisciplinary perspective, laying the foundation for prospective impact evaluations and subsequent meta-analyses in this emerging field. 

The proposed project scope includes five phases: 

  1. Stakeholder engagement, literature and project review, and framework development. The preliminary framework will be refined and adapted to the context in Malawi. Preliminary criteria for value chain selection will also be proposed and validated with key stakeholders. 
  2. Secondary data analysis of nutrition problems and characterising diets. Data will be examined from multiple sources, identifying the nutrition problems and underlying factors that are contributing to malnutrition in Malawi. Food consumption data will be analysed to characterise diets, also identifying the relative contributions of different foods relative to the overall diet. Particular value chains will be selected for further in-depth analysis. Findings from phases 1 and 2 will be presented for validation at a multidisciplinary workshop including stakeholders in Malawi, and cross-country partners from WFP and A4NH to ensure broader research and policy relevance.
  3. Mixed methods primary data collection, focusing on the communities targeted by WFP in Malawi. Data collection will include a household survey, a nutrition-oriented market assessment and value chain analysis, with a focus on the key foods identified during the characterisation of diets, and qualitative assessments of gender-related dynamics involved. 
  4. Simulations of effects from potential interventions: Scenarios will be developed involving alternative intervention options along the value chain, and economic models will be developed to simulate the potential costs, effects and returns to investment for scaling-up interventions. 
  5. Synthesis and dissemination: Detailed design of interventions for WFP Malawi that will be prioritised during the simulation stage, and a rigorous impact evaluation will be designed. Evidence generated by this project and by other A4NH and WFP activities will be used to provide broader and Malawi specific guidance on methods and metrics. Research outputs will be validated at a multidisciplinary workshop including stakeholders in Malawi and A4NH research partners.