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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Announcing VCN: An Information Brief on Value Chains for Nutrition

By Matthias Jäger & Irene van Loosen

Recently, CIAT’s Linking Farmers to Markets Research Group published an Information Brief on Value Chains for Nutrition (VCN). VCN is part of FoodLens, one of three global initiatives created under CIAT’s new strategy for the period 2014-2020.

The Information Brief is based on i) a recent IFPRI discussion paper on Value Chains for Nutrition, and ii) CIAT’s positioning in and contribution to VCN work through a range of projects.

The value chain for nutrition approach can be defined as the process of developing a strategy that addresses a set of nutrition problems through interventions within specific value chains. The general aim of the value chains for nutrition approach is to identify opportunities where chain actors benefit from the marketing of agricultural products with higher nutritional value, in particular focusing on those value chains that are most relevant to the poor.

Understanding the links between value chains, nutrition and the overall business environment is complex, involving a range of actors working in agriculture, health and nutrition. Value chain approaches can provide useful frameworks to examine the food system and have the potential to achieve improved nutritional outcomes by leveraging market-based systems. There is a need to understand:

  1. What constraints prevent increased consumption of nutritious food?
  2. Which interventions are likely to be effective in alleviating these constraints?
Figure 1. Methodological steps of the VCN approach (based on IFPRI, 2015)

Figure 1. Methodological steps of the VCN approach (based on IFPRI, 2015)

In the IFPRI discussion paper, a framework is developed to identify, design, and evaluate VCN interventions. The framework’s methodological steps, moving from the identification of the nutrition problem to the prioritization of intervention options, are summarized in Figure 1. Furthermore, the authors identify three main channels through which VCN interventions are most likely to operate; they could target the demand, supply or chain efficiency of nutritious foods.

CIAT contributes to work on value chains for nutrition through the research of a multidisciplinary team, working in partnership with national and international development organizations and partner institutions. Together they deploy a holistic, demand driven, impact oriented action research approach, assessing sustainable food availability, food access, food use, food quality, food safety and food utilization.  The overall aim of CIAT’s VCN approach is to increase the production and consumption of more diverse, safe and nutrient-dense foods for improved food security, nutrition and income of smallholder farmers, peri-urban and urban consumers.

In the short term, CIAT’s VCN research aims to assess supply and demand constraints along the different stages of the value chain for vulnerable groups of urban and peri-urban consumers, and to increase their access to and utilization of nutrient dense, safe and diverse foods. Longer term research is aimed at developing and testing solutions to increase the availability of affordable, safe and nutrient-dense food for target populations, accounting for their context specific micro-nutrient deficits. Geographically CIAT’s VCN research prioritizes the East Africa bean corridor (Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania), and Nicaragua and Honduras in Central America. CIAT’s research on value chains for nutrition is supported by the LINK methodology, a value chain research instrument developed by CIAT.

One of our main VCN related projects is currently taking place in Kenya and Uganda, where CIAT and its partners are applying a chain-wide approach to study the delivery of beans and amaranth to impoverished urban and peri-urban populations.

For an overview of CIAT’s ongoing projects related to VCN and VCN projects in the pipeline, please take a look at the VCN Information Brief.

Credit: Stephanie Malyon / CIAT: School and community nutrition program in Madagascar

Credit: Stephanie Malyon / CIAT: School and community nutrition program in Madagascar


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