Who/What is ATONU?
ATONU stands for Agriculture to Nutrition. It is an 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 is implemented by the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and its partners, and is currently focusing on three countries, namely Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania.
What does ATONU do and why?
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.
What is the rationale for the ATONU initiative?
In general terms, the rationale for ATONU and related initiatives is to help Africa broaden its agricultural focus from aiming to attain food security, to incorporating nutritional security. Africans must gravitate from “eating for hunger” to “eating for health”. Poor nutrition is the single most important threat to the world’s health and development, with overall undernutrition representing the single largest killer of under-five children and costing the global economy up to USD$2.1 trillion per year. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is most affected and represents the world's highest rate of stunting among children, which is a common result of malnutrition during pregnancy. The paradox of malnutrition in SSA, is that three-quarters of all hungry people live in rural areas where they are overwhelmingly dependent on agriculture for their food. Of these, women are the primary food producers, yet are among the most malnourished.
Hunger, malnutrition and stunting, cost the sub-Saharan African economy at least US$25 billion annually. Although the African continent is at a time when agricultural investments and productivity of food staples are finally increasing, the rate of stunting is also on the increase - from 47 million in 1990 to 59 million by 2016. Africa is the only region that has seen an increase in the number of children stunted despite a decrease in global prevalence. It is estimated that African economies lose values equivalent to between 1.9 and 16.5% of GDP annually to undernutrition due to increased mortality, chronic illnesses and associated costs, and lost productivity. To ensure that the continent benefits from the positive trends in agricultural investment and productivity, the disconnect between agriculture and nutrition must end, thus the intervention – ATONU. ATONU, and related agricultural development initiatives that incorporate nutrition-sensitive interventions, and ensure consumption of diverse diets with essential proteins, minerals and vitamins and sufficient caloric intake are an integral part of the continent’s solution to reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition.