Climate change adaptation and mitigation, gender equality, nutrition and targeted livelihood support for specific population groups are important cross-cutting issues to be addressed in the agricultural transformation agenda. Why are they important for agricultural transformation?

Climate change is a global phenomenon, with impacts that are already being experienced on a human level. It is recognized that it is those who are already the most vulnerable and marginalized who experience the greatest impacts (IPCC, 2014), and are in the utmost need of adaptation strategies in the face of shifts in weather patterns and resulting environmental phenomena. At the same time, it is the vulnerable and marginalized who have the least capacity or opportunity to prepare for the impacts of a changing climate or to participate in negotiations on mitigation. As women constitute the largest percentage of the world’s poorest people, they are most affected by these changes. Children and youth, especially girls, and elderly women, are often the most vulnerable.

The need to adapt is becoming increasingly urgent as our climate changes. As Development Connect, we are interested in discovering how transformational adaptation concepts can be mainstreamed across our clients’ programs, and if there is collaborative work we can do to develop it further.

Malnutrition affects one in two people globally including 162 million children under the age of five who are stunted (i.e. have low height for age) and two billion people who are deficient in one or more micronutrients. The task of securing food and nutrition worldwide is multidisciplinary and access to food, food distribution and food production are equally important and cannot succeed independently. If household-level effects of agriculture on nutrition exist, they are most likely the result of one or a combination of these factors, higher agricultural income, market imperfections (resulting in greater consumption of own consumption) and gender-related factors. Household agricultural production has direct and important linkages with household dietary patterns and the nutrition of individual members. The magnitude of impacts varies however often and probably as a result of differences between several key factors, such as commodities, contexts and location or the intensity of people’s participation in programs.

The right set of variables

Many countries use agriculture as a direct means to improve food security and nutrition of agricultural households implicitly assume these household-level effects exist and that their magnitude is economically meaningful. Correspondingly, policies that promote commercialization of agriculture, or generally seek to expand the value of agricultural production, assume that enhanced income generation is sufficient to improve food security and nutrition and that composition of household production does not matter. However, the first challenge in empirically establishing a farm-level relationship between agriculture and nutrition is identifying the right set of variables to analyze. If a direct link between production and consumption is anticipated, that is, farm households are expected to consume their own production, then the production of certain products or even the diversity of production are hypothesized to influence nutrition outcomes. In that case, the production of particular products or sets of products, or a production diversity index might be appropriate agriculture measures.

Alternatively, if the expectation is that higher income leads to improved nutrition, then measures such as the value of production or agricultural income might be the most relevant. However, even the use of an income measure is complicated by the possibility that the income source (mental accounting) and the recipient (intra-household allocation) may influence income use suggesting a need to carefully consider how agricultural income is disaggregated. As such, a range of agriculture measures might be used.