Agriculture, nutrition, and health are inseparably linked—agriculture provides food to nourish people so they can lead healthy lives, and productive agriculture requires the labor of healthy, well-nourished people. But can agriculture do more to improve human health and nutrition?
In February 2011, IFPRI’s 2020 Vision Initiative brought together the agriculture, nutrition, and health sectors at an international conference on “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health,” in New Delhi, India, to examine what changes are necessary to maximize agriculture’s contributions to human health and nutrition, and how human health and nutrition could contribute to an agricultural system that is both productive and sustainable. A consortium of donors, including Irish Aid, USAID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, Germany, and Canada, supported this international conference, attended by more than 1,000 participants from 65 countries. During the conference, Irish Aid cohosted two side-events: one, Scaling Up Nutrition Country Partnerships, brought together partners to strategize next steps, and another, Scaling Up Nutrition and the 1,000 Days Project, showcased the work being done to makechildren healthier.
- The 2020 Conference informed, influenced, and mobilized action by key actors to better employ investments in agriculture to sustainably reduce undernutrition and ill health for the world’s most vulnerable people. According to an independent assessment, the 2020 New Delhi Conference had important impacts on individuals, institutions, and professional discourse.
- Individuals: The conference provided new information to those who attended, gave attendees the tools to make them more effective within their own institutions, and created new networking opportunities.
- Institutions: The strongest institutional impacts came within organizations that wanted to integrate nutrition into agriculture but were unsure of how, or how quickly, to move forward. These institutions included CGIAR, of which IFPRI is a member, as it moved to create a major new research program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health; the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, as it responded to an internal evaluation of its own work in the nutrition arena; and a number of donor institutions, most prominently the UK Department of International Development, which used the momentum generated by the 2020 Conference to help push and guide a major expansion of its funding in the agriculture-nutrition-health arena.
- Professional discourse: The 2020 conference helped to change the conversation about agriculture and food security, incorporating more frequent reference to cross-sector impacts on nutrition and health.
- Unleashing Agriculture’s Potential for Improved Nutrition and Health in Malawi: The head of Irish Aid in Malawi, who attended the 2020 New Delhi Conference, subsequently asked the IFPRI office in Malawi to facilitate a conference on how the country could use its agricultural potential to improve the nutrition and health of its people. The conference, “Unleashing Agriculture’s Potential for Improved Nutrition and Health in Malawi,” with support from Irish Aid and other partners, took place in September 2011 in Lilongwe. Participants at the Malawi conference reported that the conference raised the profile of agriculture-nutrition-health linkages in both the public and policy debate. Irish Aid used the Policy Action Note from the Malawi conference to realign some of its activities in the country.