Promoting resilience in the African rural households: Food systems at a crossroad - (RELAX)

Understanding why households with higher levels of agricultural production in Burkina Faso do not have better nutrition outcomes

Date de début du projet :

01/01/2017

Date de fin du projet :

31/12/2019

Objectifs

This project aims to explore the linkages between agricultural diversity, wild resources diversity and food consumption diversity (the agriculture/nature/food nexus) in order to better understand why higher crop production does not always translate into better nutrition for farm household members, and how to tailor better interventions for nutrition-sensitive agriculture.

Localisation

Burkina Faso

Description

In the cotton-cereals producing areas in West Africa, the improvements in cereal production achieved during the last decades are widely acknowledged. Yet, progress in yields and agricultural incomes has not been matched by better nutrition outcomes. While the levels of caloric intakes have improved, malnutrition in family farms remains pervasive mainly because of a lack of diet diversity: not enough categories of food (corresponding to the recommended nutrition groups) are eaten beyond the staple. A number of development institutions and scholars have recently advocated for nutrition sensitive agricultural interventions. In particular, diverse farming systems (combining animals, crops and natural resources) are now increasingly claimed to better address specific forms of malnutrition, such as micro-nutrient deficiencies of the farm household members, relative to specialized crop systems. However, evidence supporting the capacity of diverse agricultural systems to achieve higher food diversity at the level of the farm households is still scarce and controverted.

Based on conceptual and empirical work conducted in Burkina Faso, the project will address the following questions:

  • 1. What are the relationships and interactions between production diversity, natural resources, and food diversity at the household and village levels?
  • 2. How does diet diversity relate to the resilience of the farm household, and beyond?
  • 3. What are the opportunities and bottlenecks for households and individuals to maintain an adequate level of diversity, both year round and over the long term? And finally,
  • 4. How can nutrition-sensitive interventions better harness those opportunities and address the bottlenecks?

A number of reasons can explain the lack of diet diversity: a lack of production of diverse food, a lack of supply or access possibilities to diverse food products either from the markets or from nature. This lack of production/supply/access to diversity might in turn be related to the distribution of power and control over resources within the household that frame the priorities and the decisions processes. Finally, in this very vulnerable Sahelian context, seasonality features and risks impinging on food availability or patterns of income and expenses are a source of permanent adaptation by or transformation of the households to meet their dietary needs.

The study of diet diversity also requires bringing back to the picture some often overlooked features, namely resources from nature and family gardens. These resources can represent an important source of diversity at critical times, and for specific groups, depending on their availability, and the access rights that are attached to them. The high number of possible causes, the way they interfere, and the changes along intra-annual, and pluri-annual time spans call for in depth interdisciplinary research including conceptual and empirical tools of analysis.

All partners have already worked during several years in west Burkina Faso. The project will allow them to first exchange on their specific and disciplinary (agriculture, environment, nutrition, and household economics) existing knowledges. Different theoretical models will be developed to represent (i) the intra-household decision process from production to consumption and vice versa (ii) the relations between the household level and the village/regional levels (iii) the intraannual management of the diet diversity in the farm households. The project relies on innovative mixed methods, combining qualitative and quantitative fieldwork, participatory approaches, and modeling. The core of the fieldwork will be an integrative and comprehensive survey conducted with about 100 households, and their corresponding members. The design and the analysis of the integrative survey will bring together the different disciplinary components of the project team.

The project will produce original and relevant scientific knowledge on the agriculture-nature-food nexus at the farm household level, and it will provide conceptual and practical guidelines for development practitioners and policy makers.

Partenaires

The consortium in the project includes research institution partners from Burkina Faso (Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA) and Institut de Recherche en Sciences Appliquées et Technologies (IRSAT) and France (Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD), Centre de coopération International en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), and development practitioners (Centre de coopération International en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (GRET)).

Financement

Agropolis Fondation (France)

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