IDRC-107324 Project

Project title: A multi-site research initiative to reduce malnutrition through nutrition-sensitive agriculture solutions

Funding source: International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada

Project duration: 36 months (3/2013-2/2016)


Malnutrition and food security remain serious problems in both Vietnam and Thailand, particularly amongst ethnic minorities living in remote, upland areas. Sustainably improving local food availability through improved agricultural production has the potential to address these issues; however, there is little evidence of effective strategies on how to carry this out, and specifically, how to link improvements in agriculture with corresponding improvements in diet and nutrition (Masset et al., 2012).

As described in the above analyses, changing agricultural systems, resource degradation, geographical isolation and high levels of poverty threaten food security in upland communities, and perpetuate high levels of malnutrition.  At present, viable solutions to sustainably address these issues have not been identified. Thus, a central question guiding this research project is: what practices and strategies will result in long-term improvements in local food availability, food consumption, and ultimately nutrition status of populations living in rural upland areas of Vietnam.

In addition, this project will also address the current gap in the global knowledge base of the importance of and effective strategies for integrating agriculture and nutrition to ensure a positive impact on nutrition.  Strengthening this knowledge base is essential for providing practical guidance to donors, NGOs, policy makers and rural farmers themselves to develop and implement solutions that sustainably reduce malnutrition.

Given the current limitations of and tension between government policies on natural resources management and small-holder agricultural practitioners in the study areas, the results of this research will also have important local policy implications to ensure that smallholders have an enabling environment for implementing nutrition-sensitive agriculture solutions to sustainably improve their food supply and health.


Main objective

The main goal of this research project is to study and identify the best strategies to sustainably improve the quantity and quality of local food production and consumption amongst smallholders in rural upland communities in Southeast Asia and, ultimately, improve food security and nutrition status of these populations.

Overall objective

To identify local and practical solutions to improve nutrition and food security amongst smallholder farmers in rural upland communities in Vietnam  through nutrition-sensitive agriculture solutions.

Specific objectives

To characterize the nutritional situation, nutrition practices and knowledge, and food consumption patterns in participating upland communities.

To characterize the local farming practices, including documenting the heterogeneity of agro-ecological practices, and to identify potential practices that could be tested as nutrition-sensitive agricultural solutions.

To analyze the relationships between food production, availability and consumption, and the conditioning factors (e.g. gender dynamics, market infrastructure, natural resources, including local wild foods) that limit or promote healthy diets.

To develop and test affordable and sustainable nutrition-sensitive agriculture practices that improves nutrition and food security of participating households.

To engage multi-stakeholders to promote learning and understanding, and to facilitate broad adoption of solutions, including potential policy impacts.

Study design

This research project consists of three interdependent components, each of which support and contribute to achieving the overall objective of identifying sustainable solutions for improving nutrition and food security in upland communities of Vietnam .

Component 1: Situational Assessment , 7/2013 –3/2014

Component 2: Developing and Testing Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture Solutions, 3/2014 –  3/2016