Designing interventions in local value chains for improved health and nutrition: Insights from Malawi

Jason Donovan and Aulo Gellib

In this research paper, the authors build on nutrition sensitive value chain frameworks and then present an implementation case study that seeks to identify actionable options for leveraging local value chains for improved nutritional outcomes of rural poor consumers in Malawi. The authors conclude that "Strategies for achieving nutrition goals in this context will requires stronger collaborative ties between NGOs, government agencies and the private sector and deeper learning among stakeholders than has typically been the case."

The full article is definitely worth the read, but a few relevant messages from the paper are highlighted below: 

  • Faster and greater gains in nutrition are possible when agricultural interventions respond to the nutrition-related needs of consumers. Therefore the starting point for assessment is consumers and their preferences, capacities, and needs for improved access to nutritious foods.
  • Interventions should boost production of nutritious foods, keep prices accessible to poor consumers, and maintain food quality.
  • Markets play a role in determining food availability, affordability and quality, and therefore impact diets. Because of this, interventions should consider how food is processed, distributed and marketing along the value chain.
  • Case studies from other parts of the world have highlighted the the often dominating role played by processors and retailers in the food system, with mixed outcomes for consumers.
  • Available evidence highlights the dominance of maize in diets, but also the willingness of rural households to consume other nutritious foods (e.g. leafy greens, tree fruits, dried fish) during the year.
  • Addressing the supply constraints (e.g. low productivity, seasonality) and demand constraints (e.g. low income, preference for maize) along local value chains (LVCs) will require carefully sequenced interventions within and across value chains.
  • The focus on LVCs as entry points for achieving improved diets recognises the potential for greater sustainability and scale when overlap exists between the interests of consumers and the private sector.
  • The focus on a portfolio of LVCs implies changes in how development actors work to promote markets and nutrition: development actors would need to build collaborative ties with other NGOs, government agencies and private sector actors to coordinate activities across the chain portfolio. 
  • Supporting better diets in targeted communities implies engagement along multiple, localized value chains.
This resource has been peer reviewed