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Requests for research proposals

The impact of agricultural and food supply policies on nutrition and health status
Family-level evaluation of the effect of nutrition activities in programmes of primary health care


The impact of agricultural and food supply policies on nutrition and health status

The United Nations University Project on Hunger, Health, and Society is the recipient of a grant from the United Nations Development Programme to support research on "The Impact of Agricultural and Food Supply Policies on Nutrition and Health Status." This work is one component of a series of co-ordinated grants made to the United Nations University (UNU), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) on the general subject of food security.

The objective of the UNU project is to commission approximately ten pieces of original research that will help to enlighten policy-makers and planners working at both the national and international levels regarding critical linkages between the choice of agriculture and food supply policies and the nutrition and health status of low-income populations. Support levels for each project will vary according to their scope and complexity, but should be in the vicinity of US $5,000. Efforts will also be made to help identify sources of co-financing where necessary and appropriate.

During the first stage of the UNU project, a task force of internationally recognized experts, representing a variety of different disciplines, was established to identify the most significant gaps in present knowledge of the agriculture-nutrition relationship and to formulate a list of specific studies that need to be undertaken most urgently to fill these knowledge gaps. What follows, therefore, is a description of the fourteen topics identified by the task force as meriting the highest priority, along with a set of instructions for responding to one or more of the research areas. It should be noted that priority will be given to proposals emanating from individuals or institutions in developing countries: The bulk of the research should be carried out during calendar year 1983 in anticipation of a workshop or conference to be convened thereafter in 1 984.

1. Nutritional and Health Consequences of Seasonal Fluctuations in Household Food Availability

Objective of the Study: To obtain and study data on the dietary fluctuations caused by seasonal variability in household food supply. It is assumed that such variability may be the result of multiple causes, including harvest cycles, seasonal employment, and weather/climate changes. Whatever the aetiology, the principal interest is in developing information that will facilitate more intelligent agricultural and food policy decisions in situations where seasonality is a major factor.

Type of Study: This research should analyse data collected at the household level concerning seasonal fluctuations in food availability, dietary intake, and morbidity/mortality. Given resource constraints, it would be highly desirable to utilize an existing data base. However, limited acquisitions of data in the field may also be necessary.

Duration of the Study: One year-longer if field data are to be collected.

2. The Effect of Commodity-Specific Food Price Policies on Consumption by Low-Income Groups

Objective of the Study: To examine the range of food price policy options that governments may use to improve nutritional status by fostering comsumption of domestically-produced staple crops. The research would need to analyse such food price policies as taxation and subsidies on particular commodities in terms of their effects on consumption by at-risk segments of the population.

Type of Study: This research could be undertaken either in the form of a modelling exercise or as a case study. Using either approach, it would be necessary to obtain household consumption data, to estimate income and price elasticities of demand for malnourished population groups, and then to simulate or analyse the effect of commodity price changes on actual food intake. It may also be important to consider the impacts on both rural and urban populations in the research.

Duration of the Study: One year.

3. The Impact of the Choice of Agricultural Policies on the Nutrition and Health Status of Women

Objective of the Study: To examine how a particular mix of agricultural policies affects the nature and extent of for male participation in the rural labour force, and size of their personal income, and the priorities among competing time demands such as child care and household duties. The research would seek to focus on the combined impact of these and other effects on women's nutritional and health status.

Type of Study: This research could take the form either of a literature review or an empirical analysis of new or existing data. In the latter case, it would be necessary to collect or obtain longitudinal morbidity/mortality and socioeconomic data on women participating in the agricultural labour force. Anthropological assessment of women's time budgets may also be necessary.

Duration of the Study: One year-longer if field data are to be collected.

4. The Role of Nutrition and Health Information in Agricultural Policy-Making

Objective of the Study: To identify those points in the agricultural policy process where timely information could make a difference in the nutrition and health implications of the availability or absence of certain foods. The study might also consider the nature of the information required and the most appropriate timing for its introduction into the policy process.

Type of Study: This study would seek to construct a typology that characterizes the process through which major agricultural policy decisions are made in specific developing countries. This would require not only a thorough understanding of the decision-making process, but also an appreciation for the political and social nuances - i.e., how and where policies can be influenced and by whom. The study would require the use of standard social science ret search techniques.

Duration of the Study: 6 to 9 months.

5. The Relationship between Nutrition and Health Goals and Agricultural Research Strategies

Objective of the Study: To determine the extent to which implied or expressed national nutrition and/or health goals are reflected in agricultural research strategies supported with both domestic and external funds. The research would also seek to identify ways to build nutrition and health goals into agricultural research programs.

Type of Study: This research would most usefully take the form of comparative country case studies where nutrition and health goals have been recognized explicitly in agriculture research strategies.

Duration of the Study: One year.

6. The Effect of Food Preparation Raquirements on the Nutritional Value of Diets

Objective of the Study: To analyse the effects of preparation difficulty, cooking time, and other factors-including the impact of competing demands on women's time-on the choice of food commodities purchased and, in turn, on the nutritional value of the diet. The study would also need to take account of energy (i.e. fuel) costs, as well as palatability factors.

Type of Study: This research would require the collection and analysis of new or existing anthropological, economic and dietetic data regarding preparation practices, food preferences, and food prices. Household-level surveys may also be useful.

Duration of the Study: One year-longer if collection of field data is required.

7. Evaluation of the Performance of Markets for Agricultural and Non-food Commodities and the Consequences for Nutritional Status

Objective of the Study: To investigate the impact of poorly functioning markets, both for food and non-food items, on prices and the nutrition/health status of malnourished populations. The research would examine the availability and prices of staple crops in agricultural markets in areas of malnutrition. It would also consider the causes of adverse supply and price conditions such as lack of infrastructure, lack of market information, over-regulation, insufficient credit, etc.

Type of Study: This research would require the collection of price and cost data and information on the structure of local markets. It could be undertaken either on the basis of impressionistic surveys (e.g., selected visits to markets in isolated, recently commercialized agricultural regions) or on the basis of a systematic market sample.

Duration of the Study: One year or longer, depending on the scope of the markets to be surveyed.

8. The Role of Food Processing in Development and the Alleviation of Malnutrition

Objective of the Study: To determine to what degree food processing may constitute a means either of supplying nutritious food directly to at-risk populations and/or of generating additional employment for the poor while supplying food for the middle class or for export.

Type of Study: This research would involve a survey of food processing industries in selected developing countries to determine to what extent they purchase the produce of poor farmers and generate employment for landless labourers or urban dwellers

Duration of the Study: One year or longer, depending on the number of countries.

9. Differential Causes and Differential Effects of Measures Applied to Urban and Rural Malnutrition

Objective of the Study: First, to determine the main links between agricultural production and nutritional levels in the urban and rural sectors. Second, to identify general food policies employed to improve urban and rural nutrition and their effects on agricultural prices and income. Third, to evaluate the extent to which policies to improve urban nutrition negatively affect the nutritional status of those in the rural sector.

Type of Study: This research would be carried out through a combination of literature review and analysis of existing data. It would involve ex posts evaluation of the impact of various production and consumption policies (e.g., pricing, credit, subsidies, etc.) on consumers in rural and urban settings. Two or more cases would be examined comparatively.

Duration of the Study: year.

10. Effect of Home Garden Campaigns on Food Con. gumption and Nutrition

Objective of the Study: To determine the extent to which policies designed to augment the amount and variety of foods produced and consumed at the household level make a difference in terms of providing additional income and better nutrition to malnourished populations.

Type of Study: This research would involve country case studies that examine selected home garden campaign programmes and analyse the impact of these programmes in terms of changes in disposable income and nutrient avail. ability at the household level.

Duration of the Study. One year.

11. The Economic and Nutritional Effects of Integrating Small-Scale Livestock Production into Family Agricultural Systems

Objective of the Study: To analyse the various types of constraints on small farmers who have integrated livestock production into small-scale agricultural systems. The study would also assess the economic and nutritional impacts on the farm family.

Type of Study: This research would be undertaken through selected site visits and a literature survey. It should be possible to take advantage of existing animal production data, although new information may need to be collected regarding economic and nutritional effects.

Duration of the Study: One year-longer if extensive field data must be collected.

12. Government Response to Increasing Demand for Higher Status Crops and Animal Protein

Objective of the Study: To understand the range of possible government responses to growing demand for so-called "status crops", such as certain species of legumes, vegetables, fish, and animal protein, that occurs as a result of rising per capita income and the emergence of a middle class. The study is intended to examine the implications of each response for national agricultural policy, including the decision by governments not to respond to such demand in an explicit fashion.

Type of Study: This research would examine existing empirical data on the correlation between shifts in demand for particular commodities and rising per capita income. It would also involve a survey of existing government agricultural policies-in one or more country case examples- that have been promulgated directly in reaction to such demand shifts. The study should examine such factors as market volumes and prices, food balance sheets, and animal slaughter records.

Duration of the Study: 9 to 12 months-longer if cross-national comparisons are to be undertaken.

13. An Analysis of the Factors Causing Food Consumption Adjustments among Somi-Subsistence Farmed

Objective of the Study: To improve current understanding of how semi-subsistence farmers and their families adjust consumption of home-produced and purchased foods in relation to the degree of commercialization, the nature of the cropping system in practice, input and output prices, and the extent of availability of off-farm employment.

Type of Study: This research would examine existing data and published material from a number of countries on the above-cited factors in order to draw useful cross-national comparisons.

Duration of the Study: 9 to 12 months.

14. Impacts for Income, Employment and Nutrition from the Production of Illegal (Non-Food) Crops

Objective of the Study: To assess the importance of the cultivation and export of illegal, non-food crops-primarily drugs such as marijuana, opium, and cocaine-that ret present significant sources of agricultural export income in many parts of the world, including Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. The research would examine the value of these crops not only as sources of ins come and foreign exchange, but also rural employment and, indirectly, nutritional wellbeing.

Type of Study: This research will require resourcefulness on the part of the investigator in acquiring data from many sources on the number of hectares in various countries estimated to be devoted to the production of illegal, non-food crops and the total portion of agricultural work force engaged in the process. Because the subjects of the study are unlikely to be very cooperative or identifiable, the research will require the development of informed estimates, trend extrapolations, and other unobtrusive measures.

Duration of the Study: One Year or longer.

Instructions for Application

Those interested in responding to one or more of the preceding research topics should act without delay, since proposals will be considered on a rolling basis, i.e., as they are received. Although substantial latitude will be permitted in the design of protocols, applications should respond only to the topics outlined; no unsolicited proposals will be considered. Each protocol will be peer reviewed by two to three members of the task force and, in some cases, by outside reviewers as well. Applicants will be notified as soon as a final decision has been reached.

Prospective applicants should respond in specific terms set forth in the attached outline. Proposals should set out clearly, and in detail, the methodology to be used in undertaking the research, the nature of the results to be produced, and a specific work plan. Particular attention should also be paid to the suggested duration of the study and funding constraints. If additional co-financing is considered necessary for completion of the research, possible sources should be indicated. Proposals should include relevant personal data, including mailing and cable addresses, and curricula vitae for the principal investigator and research associates (if any). There is no official application form.

Please address all proposals and inquiries to the attention of:

Dr. Mitchel B. Wallerstein
Project Director International Food and Nutrition Program
M.I.T. 20-A-202
18 Vassar Street
Cambridge, Mass. 02139, USA
Telephone: (617) 253 5128


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