Gender Research Coordinator
CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, A4NH
International Food Policy Research Institute, IFPRI
Advisory Committee member, CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research
At A4NH, we analyze how different “pathways” lead to good health and nutrition outcomes for women, men and children. All of these agriculture-nutrition-health pathways are, in fact, mediated by gender, which means that the social norms guiding the relationships and differences in roles, responsibilities and opportunities between women and men are inherently embedded in processes leading to good nutrition and health. Dynamics between these social norms and the adoption of technical and institutional innovations related to good nutrition and health are central to our research.
One key pathway in our framework is the income pathway. This is especially relevant for CGIAR researchers who are developing technologies that aim to boost the incomes of poor farmers thereby enabling them to consume more nutritious food, leading to better health outcomes for themselves and their families. To be able to understand whether and how technologies lead to our ultimate goals of good nutrition and health, we need to understand how women and men behave at different points in the income pathway. Who makes decisions as to production and which technologies to use? Can women and men access a technology equally or do they face different barriers? How do women and men interact with markets, and how do changes in income influence their diets as well as nutrition- and health-related expenditures? These are important questions to ask because we know that men and women in low-income countries are differently positioned across agricultural value chains. Women tend to be overrepresented in lower value activities, often in the informal sector. This results in unequal opportunities for women and men to earn the income that would allow them to buy nutritious food and access health services.
For example, in urban Kenya, women represent about 45 percent of milk traders, and yet formalization can unintentionally drive women away from milk markets. The ILRI-led MoreMilk project investigates whether a training, certification, and marketing intervention among peri-urban milk traders can empower informal women and men milk traders, and ultimately enhance the nutritional status of the milk traders and their families. The intervention provides training to urban milk traders on milk safety and quality, business skills and marketing, and the nutrition and health benefits of consuming milk.
But to take this discussion further, we need to scrutinize how nutrition and health outcomes are influenced by income allocations and negotiations within households. For example, is income being spent on the nutritional needs of “vulnerable” individuals, such as pregnant and lactating women? A common assumption is that an increase in income results in enhanced household nutrition and health status, but it can also lead to greater consumption of processed foods and goods with low nutritional value. Many questions remain unanswered about how markets and income affect nutrition and health outcomes. These are precisely the evidence gaps that A4NH is hoping to address in Phase 2.