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Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area – DAPA

Promoting Sustainable Food Systems: Updates from a Value Chains for Nutrition Project in Kenya and Uganda

This blog post is the second in a blog series on work of CIAT’s Linking Farmers to Markets team in promoting sustainable food systems.

The blog gives an update of the one-year A4NH funded project ‘Understanding value chains that supply nutrient dense foods to urban and peri-urban consumers in Kenya and Uganda through informal markets (beans and amaranth) ’, which is currently being executed by the LFM team. The project is part of the wider ‘Value Chains for Nutrition’ (VCN) approach that CIAT is applying in several ongoing research projects. To read our introductory blog on VCN, please look here.

Introducing the A4NH project

A4NH stands for ‘Agriculture for Nutrition and Health’, a CGIAR research program. Increasing agricultural productivity and promoting healthy diets are deeply interrelated aspects of addressing hunger and poverty. Upgrading value chains for nutritious foods provides an opportunity to intervene in both the supply and demand components of a value chain. This approach can expand production and consumption of more nutrient dense foods and create a potential win-win situation for the rural and urban poor.

The A4NH project discussed in this post aims to improve the diets of vulnerable rural and urban consumers, specifically women of reproductive age and children 6-59 months old, in Kenya and Uganda. This is expected to be achieved through increased consumption of more diverse, safe, and nutrient-dense foods sourced from multiple crops and delivered through market-based solutions.

Project goals

For Kenya and Uganda, the project aims to answer the following sets of questions:

  • Supply side: How do traditional (informal) bean and amaranth supply chains work, what are major constraints and bottlenecks, and what is the potential of these chains to deliver nutrient dense food to consumers, while improving at the same time the livelihoods of farmers?
  • Demand side: What are the demand constraints for beans and amaranth in terms of access, availability and affordability? To what extent are they consumed by households, and what are specific nutrient gaps?
  • Food safety and losses: How can chain performance of the target crops be optimized, using a nutrition lens? What are the likely points of contamination, physical food loss and nutrient leakage along the different stages of the chain from farm to fork?

By answering these questions, the research team expects to understand how informal national and sub-national market channels function for nutrient dense beans (a legume), and amaranth (an indigenous leafy vegetable). Existing national and regional public food and policies are assessed to identify interventions that could improve the ability of the informal market to benefit poor producers and consumers. Additionally, it is aimed to identify potential improvements in current business models, and to assess the feasibility for including nutrition as a key value proposition in business models of famer associations and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that have identified new market opportunities for nutrient dense processed food among rural, peri-urban and urban consumers at the base of the pyramid (BoP), sourced from locally available nutritious crops. Key national and regional government actors and donors are engaged in the project to promote the testing and evaluation of promising nutrition sensitive upgrading interventions.

Methodology and methods

The project is applying an interplay of three methodological approaches: (1) micro-level evidence based on value chain and consumer surveys; (2) meso-level evidence based on semi-structured interviews with key informants; and 3) macro-level evidence based on major, recent and relevant (inter)national indicators and policies.

Recently two stakeholder workshops were organized in Nairobi, Kenya (June 2015) and Kampala, Uganda (July 2015). During the workshops, a joint commitment among the participants for the promotion of nutrient dense foods was built, and a validated value chain map for beans and amaranth was generated. A common understanding of the gaps, challenges and opportunities relating to beans and amaranth value chains with regard to production, postharvest, processing, marketing, nutrition, gender and policy was developed. Finally, the project’s research instruments and survey tools were revised with the workshop participants.

Workshop participants in Kampala

Workshop participants in Kampala. Photo credit: LFM team (CIAT)

Workshop participants in Nairobi

Workshop participants in Nairobi. Photo credit: LFM team (CIAT)









Based on workshop discussions, value chain and consumer surveys were developed to gather primary data on bean and amaranth production and consumption. These surveys are currently being executed among consumers, and among small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) involved in the bean and amaranth value chain in Uganda and Kenya.

Conducting value chain and consumer surveys in Uganda

Conducting value chain surveys in Uganda (1). Photo credit: Nicola Francesconi (CIAT)

Conducting value chain surveys in Uganda (2). Photo credit: Nicola Francesconi (CIAT)





Based on the results of these surveys, the second year of the project (in 2016) will focus on designing, implementing and evaluating key interventions to add both economic and nutritional value to the activities of selected SMEs, other value chain actors and consumers.


The project is well on its way to facilitate participatory processes that could lead to the uptake of nutrition-sensitive tools, methods, and technologies generated for analyzing and upgrading bean and amaranth chains in Kenya and Uganda by project partners in national research and innovation systems.

Additional project proposals have been submitted which, in case of approval, will allow to reach an estimated 50,000 rural and urban vulnerable consumers with affordable nutrient dense processed and easy to use multi-composite food products sourced from local farmer organizations, with the potential of reaching 2 million consumers in Uganda and 3 million consumers in Kenya within 3 years after the project.


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