One kilometer outside of Ourossogui, in the Matam Region of Senegal, Sambo’s 4-year old daughter walks towards her father, crossing a field planted with a wide variety of nutritious crops. Her skirt is turned up into a makeshift basket and stuffed with white beans—a reliable source of protein for childhood growth and micronutrients that promote brain development.
With support from Feed the Future through USAID, Sambo has received training and assistance to improve his approach to farming and feeding his family. Moving confidently around the field, Sambo explains that the local dolikh leaves are being reintroduced for their high vitamin content and shows off a pruning tool he purchased for his fruit-bearing trees. Sambo takes pride in the fact that he can grow everything his family needs.
Leveraging agriculture to improve nutrition is a driving force behind USAID’s efforts under Feed the Future. Sambo’s farm underscores how training and enabling farmers to grow a wide variety of crops can have lasting impacts on a family’s well-being. His child benefits from a more diverse, nutritious diet. His wife spends less time walking to and from the market for ingredients. And the entire family gains more disposable income by selling a portion of their nutritious crops, which are high in demand.
However, tying agriculture to good nutrition is no easy feat. Feed the Future depends on different experts—across health, nutrition, agriculture, food security, and economic growth—to work together toward the common goal of reducing poverty and hunger. Recognizing a need to bridge some of the gaps in knowledge and perspective, USAID’s Bureau for Food Security and Bureau for Global Health partnered with the Strengthening Partnerships Results and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project to hold a series of regional workshops in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean designed to tie together agriculture-nutrition theory and practice.
These Agriculture and Nutrition Global Learning and Evidence Exchanges (AgN-GLEE) have provided a forum for USAID Mission staff, implementing partners, and host country governments to strengthen the ways they work across organizations and in the field and to further maximize the impact of Feed the Future investments. On June 18th, these efforts will culminate in a fourth and final AgN-GLEE in Washington DC.
The potential for improving nutrition through agriculture is easy to see on Sambo’s farm. But linking the worlds of agriculture and nutrition among development partners requires complex interactions between global research, institutional leadership, national political and budgetary buy-in, project success, and community and individual motivation.
The AgN-GLEEs have highlighted the implementation challenges in translating agriculture-nutrition theory into action. As different stakeholders come together during the workshops, they are contributing to the success of Feed the Future by sharing better practices and lessons learned. They’re also continuing to develop an evidence base to support future program activities.
**This article was originally published on June 17, 2013 on Feed the Future’s blog.