Types of Research
This brief presents an overview of EPAR’s previous research on nutrition and food security and outlines summaries and key findings from 15 technical reports and research briefs. Key findings are drawn from our own original analyses as well as from other sources, which are cited in the individual reports. We also include appendices briefly summarizing EPAR’s research on health and climate change, topics somewhat related to nutrition and food security, and EPAR’s confidential work on nutrition and food security.
Relative to chronic hunger, seasonal hunger in rural and urban areas of Africa is poorly understood. No estimates are compiled, and limited evidence exists on prevalence, causes, and impacts. This paper contributes to the body of evidence by examining the extent and potential drivers of seasonal hunger using panel data from the Malawi Integrated Household Panel Survey (IHPS). Farmers are commonly thought to use various strategies to smooth consumption, including planting “off-season” crops, investing in post-harvest storage technologies, or generally diversifying farm portfolios including livestock products and/or wild crops. Similarly, when markets are available, farmers may diversify through off-farm income sources in order to purchase food in lean seasons. We investigate whether seasonal hunger – distinct from chronic hunger – exists in Malawi, drawing on two waves of panel data from the LSMS-ISA series. We examine the extent of seasonal hunger, factors associated with variation in seasonal hunger, and how recurring and longer-term seasonal hunger might be associated with various household welfare measures. We find that both urban and rural households report experiencing seasonal hunger in the pre-harvest months, with descriptive evidence suggesting male gender, age, and education of household head, livestock ownership, and storage of crops are associated with lower levels of seasonal hunger. In addition, we find that Malawian households with seasonal hunger harvest crops earlier than average – a short-term coping mechanism that can reduce the crop’s yield and nutritional value, possibly perpetuating hunger.
Household survey data are a key source of information for policy-makers at all levels. In developing countries, household data are commonly used to target interventions and evaluate progress towards development goals. The World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) are a particularly rich source of nationally-representative panel data for six Sub-Saharan African countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. To help understand how these data are used, EPAR reviewed the existing literature referencing the LSMS-ISA and identified 415 publications, working papers, reports, and presentations with primary research based on LSMS-ISA data. We find that use of the LSMS-ISA has been increasing each year since the first survey waves were made available in 2009, with several universities, multilateral organizations, government offices, and research groups across the globe using the data to answer questions on agricultural productivity, farm management, poverty and welfare, nutrition, and several other topics.
This four-part analysis describes the current suite of food security measures, then analyzes the respective relationships between food security and poverty, GDP, and crop yields using findings from in-depth literature reviews. Food security measures are criticized for inaccurately characterizing food security at individual, household, and national scales, yet guidelines exist to prescribe a food security measure for a given situation. Some authors see the potential of a combination of indicators that apply at different scales rather than a single, universal food security measure. Limited literature exists on the relationship between food security and poverty, GDP, or crop yields. The relationship between food security and poverty is particularly challenging because neither term has a consistent definition, and the limited literature suggests a lack of consensus among experts. Little empirical research exists on the relationship between food security and GDP, though studies generally note an association between the two Studies that evaluate food security and crop yields provide limited evidence that the two are associated, though many studies use measures of crop yield as food security indicators and vice versa. More research is needed to establish whether there are preferred food security measurement tools for specific scales and situations, and to further explore the relationship between food security and poverty, GDP, and crop yields.
Our initial agriculture capacity building search revealed best practices including institutional partnership building, cross-border opportunities such as ‘twinning,’ and views that these practices are most effective when accompanied by appropriate policies and regulatory frameworks to incentivize return on education to home countries. In addition, the literature explained the historical and political context in which some countries successfully built higher educational capacity, suggesting a set of socio-political conditions necessary for a ‘surge’ in capacity building to occur. Our results raised questions about challenges shaping these best practices (e.g. “brain drain” leading to the need for cross-border opportunities) as well as possible approaches to address these underlying issues. To further examine identified challenges from our initial findings, we re-oriented our search to investigate retention strategies, regional or intra-national network capacity building approaches, and whether there is in fact a need for higher education capacity in all countries through comparative advantage or otherwise. This report presents a review of the literature on the best and worst practices for national agricultural capacity building when investing in a country's higher education system or when investing directly in national or relevant global research capacity. We find that several countries have successfully employed a variety of retention, return, and diaspora strategies to build capacity by capitalizing on the feedback loops of international mobility. In addition, several countries in Africa have employed strategies to address the rural-to-urban “brain drain” by prioritizing education of students with post-secondary rural agricultural work experience and strong ties to rural communities in order to return the benefit of this education to local communities. The report discusses these and other strategies as well as analysis related to the ‘whole system effect’ of higher education and subsequent ‘need’ for Higher Agricultural Education (HAE) capacity in all countries.
This literature review examines the returns to tertiary agricultural sciences education, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We include information from organizations’ program documents and gray literature, including the World Bank, UNESCO, ILO, IFPRI, ASTI, various Ministries of Education, country-specific NARS, and ADBG. We find no calculated rate of return (RoR) to tertiary agricultural science, including in SSA. We do find estimates for the return on tertiary education in general, ranging from 12-30% in SSA, along with qualitative support for the value of agricultural science education. The private value of this education can be somewhat inferred from the unmet demand of African students for agricultural science training in North America, Europe, and Australia, and the private and social value from the demand for educated researchers in NARS and SSAQ labor markets. Educated agricultural scientists are hypothesized to affect agricultural productivity via research and development and their influence on policy. Despite the dearth of quantitative ROR evidence, we do find several articles describing the need for increased higher agricultural education and proposing recommendations toward this aim. In this report, we summarize these qualitative results as evidence of the value of tertiary education.
This brief provides an overview of the national and zonal characteristics of agricultural production in Tanzania using the 2008/2009 wave of the Tanzania National Panel Survey (TZNPS), part of the Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA). More detailed information and analysis is available in the separate EPAR Tanzania LSMS-ISA Reference Report, Sections A-G.
This brief summarizes the literature on caloric and lipid deficiencies and their contribution to nutritional outcomes, and identifies key studies and pieces of literature related to this topic.
Cereals and pulses are important food and cash crops for farmers and rural households in Ethiopia. Despite the economic and food security importance of these crops, data and opinion suggest a yield gap: actual smallholder farm yields do not achieve estimated potential yields for wheat, sorghum, maize, lentils and peas. Furthermore, cereal prices in Ethiopia fall between import and export parity prices, limiting their international trading prospects. Although there are significant wheat imports, these reflect the influx of food aid, rather than competitive trade on the international market. The purpose of this brief is to estimate yield gaps in important Ethiopian crops in order to identify potential areas for productivity gains. We find that wheat, sorghum and maize all exhibit the potential for yield gains to increase domestic food availability. Additionally, all three crops experienced significant spikes in yield in the 2006 season. Further investigation into the climate conditions and policy in place that year may generate potential strategies to increase future yields. Analysis of Ethiopian lentil and pea yields suggest that productivity gains may be possible to increase food availability. Limited access to improved technologies appears to be the main constraint to pulse productivity in Ethiopia. Opportunities to increase lentil and pea yields appear to exist through increasing cultivation of improved varieties.
Without availability and access to a variety of foods, populations in the developing world are suffering from deficiencies in iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin A, and other micronutrients in addition to deficiencies in energy and protein. Supplementation and fortification programs have demonstrated effectiveness, but there is an increasing interest in potentially more sustainable solutions via agricultural interventions. The review examines the literature regarding agricultural interventions and pathways to diet diversification and whether desired nutritional outcomes are achieved. We find a strong sentiment that agricultural interventions can improve dietary diversity, and that dietary diversity can improve nutrition and related health outcomes. The programs with demonstrated ability to improve nutrition outcomes are most often cross-cutting interventions, borrowing from the agriculture, nutrition, and public health traditions. While these multi-platform programs can be costly to evaluate and difficult to implement, the evidence supports their potential to create sustainable quality-of-life improvements in target regions. The pathways by which agricultural interventions achieve impact are not fully clear, however. The greatest knowledge gaps are directly related to the lack of integration between program design and evaluation. Many evaluations are based on small sample sizes, lack control groups or baseline data, are subject to selection bias, or face other challenges to rigorous statistical analysis.