Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture, Education: New Approaches to Teaching Sustainable Nutrition

This nutrition-sensitive agriculture education as an exclusive course for all senior classes has been started at the College of Agricultural Sciences of the Arba Minch University beginning of the academic year 2018/2019. AMU is becoming one of the few pioneers of higher education in this respect. As everybody can comprehend that despite tremendous achievements, the problem of food and nutrition security remains the principal health and development issue for the state. Nationwide, the prevalence of stunting among children 6-59 months old is 40% and the prevalence of wasting and underweight is recorded to be 9% and 27%, respectively. Micronutrient deficiency is also pervasive and severe in the country. About 44% of under-five children, 30% of adolescents, 22% of pregnant women, 17% of women of reproductive age are anemic.

Despite significant efforts by the U.S. Government to address malnutrition with nutrition-sensitive agricultural practices, agriculture graduates of the Ethiopian Agricultural Colleges did not have the competencies to address the issue because the education curriculum did not include these basic skills. Therefore, knowledge of nutrition-sensitive agricultural practices at the local level was non-existent, resulting in the current state of malnutrition. The project identified core nutrition competencies for senior level agriculture students, which were integrated into their syllabi developed by Ethiopian and USA expertise’s through Jhpiego-Ethiopia’s ENGINE (Empowering a New Generation to Improve Nutrition and Economic Opportunity) project, funded by USAID. After completing their education, the agriculture students taught by the revised syllabi will be assessed for their nutrition-sensitive agriculture knowledge, skills, and attitudes competencies. The results indicated a significant improvement in the student's potential to address malnutrition with nutrition-sensitive agricultural practices.

Agriculture and nutrition are intrinsically interlinked. Agricultural production is one important means for achieving food and nutrition security. Increasing agricultural productivity has the potential to improve household food security and nutrition of the population. In addition, healthier and well-nourished smallholder farmers are more productive, earn more income, and contribute to further economic growth and development.  In order to come out with appropriate nutrition-sensitive agricultural strategies, it is important to understand the linkage between agriculture, nutrition and modern education. The new education paves actual ways that how our students and graduate will help the nation through pieces of advice and decision making. The design and delivery of key nutrition-sensitive agriculture messages to households using of evidence-based behavior change strategies can significantly impact on nutrition positively. Therefore, the proposed nutrition-sensitive interventions in this strategic education are trying to consider these three pathways as a means to improve production, income and food consumption at the household level. As illustrated, improved production of diverse, safe and nutrient dense foods through a number of technologies is vital to ensure availability and access to foods. Improving income through on and off-farm agricultural activities are also one of the pathways to ensure food and nutrition security.

The major reputations of nutrition sensitive agriculture teaching:

  • Contextual, cultural, economic, and food environment factors (including markets) need to be taken into account when designing and implementing Nutrition-sensitive agricultural programs.
  • Nutrition-sensitive agricultural programs are intended to improve a variety of nutrition outcomes in both mothers and children.
  • They are more effective when they include nutrition and health behavior chance communication and women’s empowerment interventions.
  • Greater impacts on child nutritional status are achieved when programs incorporate health and water, sanitation and hygiene interventions and micronutrient-fortified products.
  • Nutrition-sensitive agricultural programs should focus on improving access and consumption of high-quality diets for all household members rather than on reducing childhood stunting.
  • There are still important knowledge gaps to be filled including questions of sustainability, scale-up and cost-effectiveness of Contextual, cultural, economic, and food environment factors (including markets) need to be taken into account when designing and implementing Nutrition-sensitive agricultural programs.