Reflections on another action-packed ANH Academy Week

By Greg Cooper
Market Intervention for Nutritional Improvement (MINI) project and Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP), SOAS, University of London

Twitter: @CoopG93 @SOASDevelopment @SOAS

Originally published by the MINI Project.

This week marked the second year that the MINI project has participated in the annual Agricultural, Nutrition & Health (ANH) Academy Week, which brings together researchers and practitioners from around the world in the fields of, well, you guessed it, agriculture, nutrition and health! The academy is jointly organised and run by the amazing 'Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions' (IMMANA) and 'London Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture & Health' (LCIRAH) teams, as well as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Tufts University, Massachusetts. 

This year marked the first time that the Academy went virtual - in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which unfortunately made travel to Malawi all but impossible. A huge amount of credit and gratitude has to go to the core conference team, including Joe Yates, Abel Endashaw, Sylvia Levy, MINI's very own Dr Suneetha Kadiyala and the wider Academy team. The conference appeared to run seamlessly, and the use of Zoom to host the meetings really helped to bring the authentic conference experience into our own homes. 

Each speaker recorded a 7-minute presentation for the conference participants to view ahead of the parallel sessions. This year MINI presented a series of preliminary model outputs, including some ‘consumer versus producer’ trade-offs emerging from scenarios designed to adapt aggregation schemes to increase the delivery of fruits and vegetables to local, traditionally more neglected market environments in Bihar, India. Our presentation is available below and the rest of the conference presentations may be found on IMMANA's YouTube channel. 

Nobel laureate Angus Deaton kicked off the week with a broad-brush introduction to the interactions between economics, nutrition and health. Angus explored the paradox around how inequality is widening on average at the national scale, but appears to be falling at the global scale, largely due to the economic development of India and China over the past 50 years. Relevant to MINI, Angus briefly discussed the implications of Covid-19 on agricultural food systems, noting the importance of resilient markets and distribution networks for international, national and regional food security.   

A personal favourite was the 'Using Nutrition Modeling Tools to Inform Policy Decisions' learning lab ran by the Nutrition Modeling Consortium. Of particular interest was Steve Vosti's learning lab on the MINIMOD tool - which aims to help national-level policymakers more efficiently plan micronutrient intervention programs. A number of the questions MINIMOD focuses on share similarities with the aims of MINI (e.g. increasing the availability and consumption of nutritious foods), so it was particularly interesting to learn about the ins and outs of an alternative modelling approach. The session also provided a timely reminder about the importance of estimating the financial costs of different food system interventions (something which the MINIMOD approach is a specialist at)!

A big thank you again to the ANH Academy team for a really engaging and thought-provoking two weeks. I know that I've come away from the conference feeling refreshed and ready to jump into the last six or so months of MINI, and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that the ANH community will have the opportunity to meet in person next year.

More information about ANH2020 can be found here, including the interactive programme.

Originally published by the MINI Project.

Greg Cooper is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP), SOAS, University of London. He is currently the lead researcher on the Market Intervention for Nutritional Improvement (MINI) project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMFG) and Department for International Development, UK (DfID). Prior to joining MINI, Greg completed his PhD at the University of Southampton (graduated 2018), researching and modelling the social-ecological sustainability of Lake Chilika in India. Greg also graduated from the University of Southampton in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical geography. Greg’s research to date has focused on the design and application of system dynamics models to tackle social, ecological and economic sustainability challenges in environments ranging from agricultural systems to lagoonal fisheries. As such, Greg has fieldwork experience in the Indian states of Odisha and Bihar collecting both qualitative and quantitative data.