Nutrition

Undernutrition is responsible for nearly half of all deaths in children under five globally – and at least two Billion people suffer from at least one form of malnutrition, including overweight and obesity and micronutrient deficiencies. IDS and partners use multidisciplinary approaches in research, policy and action to understand nutritional inequalities at the overlap of food and health systems. 

Women in Chad with palm oil

IDS brings a critical development perspective to the heart of debates on nutrition

Beyond the tragic loss of life, malnutrition also has hugely detrimental social and economic effects throughout people’s lives; traps people in poverty and transmits it to their children. These deaths and damage result from poor political, policy and programmatic choices and are entirely preventable. IDS takes a critical development perspective to shape and strengthen the response to these challenges.

Thinking about nutrition in relation to wider development challenges

Improving nutrition cannot happen in isolation from efforts to address other development challenges. IDS’ research on nutrition includes work on sensitising livelihoods development, social protection, systems of gender and care, water, sanitation and hygiene and agriculture and food security to the importance of nutrition. 

IDS is part of the partnership Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia, which aims to improve nutrition through understanding of how agriculture and agri-food systems can be better designed. In Bangladesh, IDS led an evaluation of a DFID programme that aims to improve nutrition outcomes by integrating the delivery of community nutrition support with livelihoods and social protection. 

Putting accountable politics at the heart of improving nutrition

Engaging with politics and placing those accountable for decisions at all levels is fundamental to pushing nutrition up the political agenda. IDS focuses on the politics and governance of nutrition by exploring policy processes and commitment towards tackling malnutrition and by developing new forms of community and political engagement via a range of innovative methods.

IDS produces the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index, which ranks governments and donors on their political commitment to tackling hunger and undernutrition. IDS is also part of the Transform Nutrition Consortium, which works to stimulate more effective action to improve nutrition via research on nutrition programming and policy; including via community accountability. 

Combining different approaches to strengthen our understanding of malnutrition

IDS’ nutrition work is underscored by a growing list of major, multi-methods evaluations. Using, developing and teaching innovative and multiple methods to conduct research is vital to our approach and understanding. 

Through leading on evidence mobilisation embedded within an impact evaluation in Nigeria, IDS highlighted many to barriers to women and children in improving nutrition. IDS is also co-leading a mixed methods evaluation to estimate the impact of DFID’s mNutrition programme. 

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Jean Pierre Tranchant is a Research Fellow with the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team More details

Jessica Meeker is the Nutrition Convenor, Knowledge Services More details

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Photo of Karine Gatellier, Health Convenor in IDS Knowledge Services More details

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Stories of Change in Nutrition

Stories of Change in Nutrition are a series of structured case studies in 6 countries: Bangladesh, Nepal, Odisha (India), Ethiopia, Senegal and Zambia. These ‘stories’ aim to improve our understanding of what drives impact in reducing undernutrition, and how enabling environments and pro-nutrition policy and implementation processes can be cultivated and sustained. This work is funded by CIFF and DFID through Transform Nutrition. More details

Strengthening Agri-food Value Chains for Nutrition

The project aims to help reduce undernutrition by informing policy and providing tools to make food and agricultural systems more ‘nutrition-sensitive’. More details

Strengthening Multi-Sectoral and Multi-Stakeholders Platforms (MSP): Design for Effectiveness

To achieve its aim of reducing malnutrition in the countries with the highest burden, the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement is supporting the creation of multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) in multiple SUN member countries. The overall objective of this work is to identify and document information on the institutional configurations for MSPs that are most appropriate for achieving national goals on nutrition in different contexts, and develop tools and resources to disseminate best practices for designing MSPs. More details

Supporting Policies, Programs and Enabling Action through Research (SPEAR)

Supporting Policies, Programmes and Enabling Action through Research (SPEAR) is a Flagship Programme (FP4) within the Agriculture for Nutrition and Health Program. The main objective of SPEAR is to understand and enhance agriculture’s contribution to improving nutrition at scale. More details

The 'Right to Nutrition' in its Social, Legal and Political Context: A Scoping Study in Two Low-Income Countries

A ‘right to nutrition’ has been suggested as a normative concept that might increase the impact of nutrition policy and action. This research will start to explore the views of those working for improved nutrition, and their understanding of - or desire for - a right to nutrition approach to address the intractable issue of malnutrition and its social determinants. More details

Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems

This project will examine potential pathways for transitioning to more sustainable food systems in order to contribute to improved ecological, economic, social and nutritional outcomes. More details

UK-Brazil Learning Exchange on Food and Nutrition Policy

IDS and Food Foundation partner with Brazilian researchers to explore mutual learning on food and nutrition security policy, bringing together parliamentarians, civil society and policy actors to discuss best practice. More details

Urbanisation and Changing Food Systems Addressing the Nutrition Transition

We plan to develop a research network and carry out background research on urban food environments in rapidly growing cities and towns in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia with the goal of applying for a major GCRF call (and additional calls) in 2017/8. More details

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View all Research Theme's publications

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This is the front cover to IDS Bulletin 49.1, 'Value Chains for Nutrition in South Asia:
Who Delivers, How, and to Whom?'

Value Chains for Nutrition in South Asia: Who Delivers, How, and to Whom?

IDS Bulletin 49.1 (2018)

There is currently much talk of the private sector role in nutrition, and whether the state can ‘shape’ the market to deliver better nutritional outcomes. This issue of the IDS Bulletin presents research findings in this area, developed by the consortium of research partners under the Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) programme. More details

Non-IDS publication

Co-Design With Aligned And Non-Aligned Knowledge Partners: Implications For Research And Coproduction Of Sustainable Food Systems

We discuss two different strategies to initiate a process of identifying a focused sustainability challenge, and co-defining and co-designing alternative pathways to more sustainable food systems. More details

Returning Home after Civil War: Food Security and Nutrition among Burundian Households

The Journal of Development Studies 54.6 (2018)

This journal article investigates the food security and nutritional status of formerly displaced households in Burundi. More details

Inception Report: External evaluation of mobile phone technology-based nutrition and agriculture advisory services in Africa and South Asia

The GSM Association (GSMA), working with a wide range of mobile network operators and civil society organisations, is launching a series of nutrition-focused m-health and m-agriculture initiatives in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. GSMA refers to nutrition-enhanced initiatives collectively as ‘m-nutrition’. This report summarises the plans for an impact evaluation of two of these nutrition-enhanced initiatives: mHealth in Tanzania and mAgri in Ghana. More details

Using a business model and cost-effectiveness analysis to evaluate mobile phone technology based nutrition and agriculture advisory services in Tanzania and Ghana

This methodological brief focuses on the business model and cost effectiveness analysis component of the mNutrition evaluation and is led by Gamos. More details

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A Strategic Approach to Social Accountability in Pakistan

IDS Working Paper 497 (2017)

This paper explores the progress of the Empowerment, Voice and Accountability for Better Health and Nutrition (EVA) project implemented by Palladium in partnership with the Centre for Communications Programmes Pakistan. More details

Using quantitative methods to evaluate mobile phone technology based nutrition and agriculture advisory services in Ghana

This brief focuses on the quantitative impact evaluation in Ghana, led by IFPRI; a key component of the mNutrition impact evaluation. More details

Using quantitative methods to evaluate mobile phone technology based nutrition and agriculture advisory services in Tanzania

This brief focuses on the quantitative component of the impact evaluation of mNutrition in Tanzania, led by IDS, GAMOS and IFPRI. More details

Why Access to Land is Vital for Sustainable, Healthy and Fair Food Systems: Strategies for Increasing Access to Land for Agroecological Farming

In partnership between the Institute of Development Studies and the Land Workers’ Alliance, research has been undertaken to identify strategies for increasing access to land for agroecological production, in order to contribute to a transition towards sustainable – or even regenerative – food systems in the UK. This briefing summarises these strategies. More details

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From Coherence Towards Commitment: Changes and Challenges in Zambia's Nutrition Policy Environment

Global Food Security 13 (2017)

An enabling environment for malnutrition reduction includes creating policy and political momentum, and converting momentum to implementation and impact. More details

Non-IDS publication

Heirloom rice in Ifugao: an ‘anti-commodity’ in the process of commodification

The Journal of Peasant Studies (2017)

We analyse the marketing of ‘heirloom rices’ produced in the Cordillera mountains of northern Luzon, the Philippines, as the commodification of a historical ‘anti-commodity’ More details

This is the front cover of MAVC research Report Social accountability Initiatives in Health and Nutrition: Lessons from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

Social Accountabilty Initatives in Health and Nutrition: Lessons from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh

South Asia is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s population and is a region of dynamic economic growth, yet it performs relatively poorly on health and nutrition indicators. As a potential route towards addressing this poor performance, a range of accountability initiatives has been implemented to improve service delivery in the health and nutrition sectors. More details

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A Narrative Analysis of the Political Economy Shaping Policy on Child Undernutrition in India

Development and Change 48.2 (2017)

This article examines two narratives on the subject of child undernutrition in India espoused by competing sides of the policy elite. It argues that undertaking narrative policy analysis in a structured fashion helps to elucidate a clearer sense of the underlying positions within this important area of development discourse. More details

IDS publications on international development research

Assessing Food Value Chain Pathways, Linkages and Impacts for Better Nutrition of Vulnerable Groups

Food Policy 68 (2017)

This article offers insights into assessing the effectiveness of post farm-gate agri-food value chains at improving the nutrition intake of vulnerable groups. It develops a conceptual framework integrating the value chain concepts with agriculture and nutrition, and identifies key outcomes and requirements for value chains to be successful at delivering substantive and sustained consumption of nutrient-dense foods by poor households. More details

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What are the Challenges and Opportunities for Multi-level Advocacy for Nutrition?

IDS Policy Briefing 129 (2017)

Over the last decade, policy advocacy has made critical contributions towards the development of nutrition policies, laws and strategies in many countries with high burdens of malnutrition. More details

What Can Promote Access to Land for Agroecological Farming in the UK? Findings from Participatory Research and Deliberation as part of the Transitions to Agroecological Food Systems Project

Access to land has long been a key barrier to new entrants to farming and has become more difficult in the last decade or so. In order to address these land access challenges, the panel discussed the potentials of both (a) working within the existing system (i.e. navigating existing policies, regulations and institutions), and (b) working to change the system (i.e. revising or introducing new policies, regulations and institutions). More details

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