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Agriculture for Nutrition Programme (AFN)

Photo: Bart Verweij

About the Project

Undernutrition and food insecurity in Laos remain stubbornly high, with stunting rates of children under five up to 54% in some provinces. Communities most prone to undernutrition live in upland areas, where the dominant household economic activities of agriculture and non-timber forest product extraction are increasingly constrained by unsustainable farming practices. Improving women’s nutrition is critical to breaking the inter-generational cycle of undernutrition and, given the negative impact that chronic undernutrition has on health, productivity, educational attainment, and income-earning ability, to sustained national economic growth.

GAFSP invested $30 million to raise agricultural productivity, link farmers to markets, and develop institutional capacity to provide farmer families with food and nutrition security. AFN reduces extreme poverty and malnutrition in the poorest communities in northern Laos by strengthening public services, establishing agriculture-based and community-driven nutrition interventions, promoting climate-resilient irrigation and water management based on the community approach, and forming sustainable and inclusive market-driven partnerships. Activities include establishing nutrition-sensitive agricultural production infrastructure, including small-scale irrigation systems, water supply and access tracks; creating Farmer Nutrition Schools, and establishing home gardens that promote the availability of nutritious and diverse food for households. Further, the project supports diversification from rice, the main staple food, which accounts for 72% of the total cultivated area, and promotes climate-smart, sustainable farming by introducing conservation farming techniques and agroforestry.


  • Lao PDR

Project Status




Supervising entity

  • IFAD
  • WFP

Call Year


GAFSP Funding Amount




people reached

The project has reached 210,684 people, 57% of them women. The project also provided grants to 802 Agriculture Production Groups, directly benefitting 13,915 smallholder farmers.



30,000 households have benefited from village infrastructure projects such as irrigation, water supply and access tracks linking to production fields.


people trained

34,628 people, the majority of them women, have received training on nutrition-sensitive agriculture.

The project also has developed, disseminated, and facilitated trainings on nine guidelines and tools, including farmer-to-farmer extension guidelines. To strengthen public services, the project has continued its technical support to 14 Technical Service Centers to establish demonstration sites through green- and net-houses, poultry- and frog-raising, and forage production.

The project has trained 5,119 civil servants dedicated to sectoral planning and strategy on better practices, selected lead farmers, and village veterinary workers, including women, in 400 villages, linking them with farmer groups and project beneficiaries. Finally, since 2020, Farmer Nutrition Schools have expanded to include all 400 villages under the project, carrying out learning sessions through 1,217 village nutrition facilitators for over 22,000 participants, of which 95% are women.

Cooking sessions are organized as part of the project to show participants and interested villagers recipes using nutrient-dense foods grown and produced in the villages. A total of 22,970 small grants were distributed to women to start or improve their homegardens as a source of nutrient-dense food for their households.

The Endline Survey conducted in late 2022 and final Project Completion Report showed that the project was quite successful and received the rating of 5 out of 6 from the combined MAF-IFAD-WFP mission.

AFN has succeeded in reaching or surpassing its most important outreach and physical output targets (which were modified at Mid- Term Review, MTR). The project reports 210,684 beneficiaries (92.5% of the target) of whom 57% were women.


Key Achievements

Key achievements under Component 1 (strengthened public services) included upgrading of 14 Technical Service Centres (TSC) under DAFO, development and documentation of 29 Participatory Action Research (PAR) agriculture models in total, of which, 19 PARs, actively promoted within AFN, for climate-resilient and sustainable smallholder production; selection, training and certification of 884 Lead Farmers (LF); support to 769 Village Veterinary Workers (VVW) 900 on-farm emonstrations in 285 villages; forage production activities established in 196 villages; and development of a Project Monitoring Information System (ProMIS) for MAF.

Key achievements under Component 2 (Community-driven agriculture-based nutrition interventions) included support to 12 District Nutrition Committees (DNC) coordinating convergence activities under the NNSPA; 400 villages with participatory development plans and 365 villages with village nutrition plans; 400 Farmer Nutrition Schools (FNS) established with 386 having Nutrition Learning Centre (NLC) buildings; training of 1,217 Village Nutrition Facilitators (79% women); and 22,970 HH provided with targeted support to improve their nutrition including Garden Grants to women participants in the FNS of USD 120 per household, used to develop homestead garden and small livestock activities and accompanied by agriculture training.

Key achievements under Component 3 (Sustainable and Inclusive Market-Driven Partnerships) were preparation of 12 commodity specific Strategic Investment Plans (SIPs); implementation of 465 village infrastructure schemes, mainly in farm access roads and bridges, small-scale irrigation and domestic water supplies; formation of 872 Agriculture Production Groups (APGs) of which 802 received grants for investment in community or on-farm productive assets; and seven Public-Private-Community Partnerships (PPCP) with locally based agri-enterprises which received matching grants for investments, reached buyer agreements / contracts with APG member farmers and provided farmers with extension support for production.

Project relevance is rated as satisfactory. The overall design was consistent with the needs of the target groups and to key GoL policies and programmes for nutrition and smallholder agriculture development, and remained so throughout the project period.

Project effectiveness is rated as Satisfactory. The Objective indicator target of 21,000 HH out of poverty by increasing per capita income from the current level to more than $270/yr. by Project-end was 85% achieved, which is a good performance particularly in view of the impacts of COVID-19 and the war in the Ukraine. The second Objective indicator target, at least 21,000 HH with improved food security has been exceeded, with a cumulative result of 31,663 HH being reported by the endline survey.



“The FNS represents a novel solution within the context and the project area. The FNS methodology was improved over the project implementation period based on lessons learned, including a reduction from ten modules initially to four simplified modules, combining cooking demonstration sessions with behavior change toward more balanced and healthy food preparation and feeding.”

“The Village Nutrition Plans (VNP) represent a further innovation based on the observation that general village development plans remained dominated by proposed infrastructure investments even when prepared by participatory methods with project facilitation. The project responded by introducing the VNP which assists villagers, led by the VFs, to identify and address specific constraints and opportunities for improving nutrition”

“While not strictly a technical innovation, the project led the way in committing to support the convergence approach and strengthening the District Nutrition Committees and took a decentralized implementation approach in line with the Government of Laos “Sam Sang” policy. The project has made notable efforts to document and disseminate lessons learned.”