Agriculture to Nutrition (ATONU): Improving Nutrition Outcomes Through Optimized Agricultural Investments

The odds are favorable that a healthy, well-nourished woman will have a healthy baby. But, at a time when agricultural investments and productivity of food staples are finally increasing in Africa, the number of stunted children in Africa rose from 50.8 million in 2000 to 58.6 million in 2012. Malnutrition undermines the health and limits the opportunities of almost one in four people in Africa. It is estimated that high rates of malnutrition can reduce a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) by as much as 12 percent. The disconnect between agriculture and nutrition must end.

Agricultural development initiatives have the potential to improve the nutrition of those most vulnerable to malnutrition. While the link between agriculture and nutrition seems intuitive, it cannot be taken for granted. Direct evidence linking agricultural programs and nutrition outcomes is weak. The intense focus of many agricultural programs on increasing productivity of staple foods can come at the expense of nutritional security. To fulfill their potential for reducing poverty and hunger, agricultural development initiatives must incorporate nutrition-sensitive interventions, and ensure consumption of diverse diets with essential proteins, minerals and vitamins and sufficient caloric intake.

Agriculture to Nutrition Initiative - ATONU

ATONU is a six-year Agriculture to Nutrition African initiative focusing on how agriculture can deliver positive nutrition outcomes to smallholder farm families through the implementation of robust, evidence-based nutrition-sensitive interventions.

ATONU provides technical assistance to integrate tailored nutrition-sensitive interventions into planned and ongoing agricultural investments through (i) generating tools and frameworks for diagnosing the opportunities to incorporate tailored nutrition-sensitive interventions into agriculture investments; (ii) offering technical assistance for designing, testing, and rigorously monitoring and evaluating the impact of the tailored nutrition-sensitive interventions; (iii) documenting best practices and evidence and adding to the agriculture for nutrition knowledge base; (iv) advocating for evidence-based decision making at all levels; and (v) strengthening African capacity and building a community of practice in agriculture for improved nutrition.

ATONU is implemented by the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and its partners. The regional initiative is focusing on three countries - Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

ATONU’s specific focus is on women of child-bearing age and young children in the first 1,000 days of life from conception to the second birthday, where the high nutritional demands of pregnancy, development and early childhood must largely be met through own farm food production, women’s empowerment, income and knowledge on the need to purchase nutrient-dense foods and consumption of a diversified diet.