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Agriculture for Nutrition Programme (AFN)

$30 million to raise agricultural productivity, link farmers to markets, and develop institutional capacity to provide farmer families with food and nutrition security.
Photo: Bart Verweij

Challenge

In Lao People’s Democratic Republic, undernutrition and food insecurity remain stubbornly high, with stunted children under five up to 61% in some provinces. Improving women’s nutrition is critical to breaking the intergenerational cycle of undernutrition and, given the negative impact that chronic undernutrition has on health, productivity, educational attainment, and income-earning ability, addressing this issue is essential to sustained national economic growth. Communities most prone to undernutrition live in upland areas where the dominant household economic activities – agriculture and non-timber forest product extraction – are increasingly constrained by unsustainable farming practices. This is why the government’s National Nutrition Strategy to 2025 and Plan of Action 2016-2020 specifically looks to boost agricultural productivity as a top priority – to raise incomes and improve livelihoods, reduce its vulnerability to climate change, and expand both public and private sector investments.

Solution

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 agriculture production infrastructure, particularly micro-irrigation systems, creating Farmer Nutrition Schools (FNSs), establishing home gardens as part of FNS activities, and financing investments to support availability and use of nutritious food for female-led households. Further, the project supports diversification from rice, the main staple food, which accounts for 72 percent of the total cultivated area and promotes climate-smart, sustainable farming by introducing conservation farming techniques and agroforestry.

Project Status

Active

Country

  • Lao PDR

Funding

Public

Focus area

  • Climate Change
  • Nutrition

Supervising entity

  • IFAD
  • WFP

Results

As of December 2020, the project has reached 199,580 people (73 percent women). The project has also provided 24,076 people (20,224 women) with nutrition services (in this case training on nutrition sensitive agriculture); 442 households are growing forage seeds and planting material on 632 hectares; and 2,297 households are growing 1,163 hectares of forage for feeding purposes. In total, about 30,000 households are benefiting from the village infrastructure projects (VIP) investments made by the project. This brings total number of sub-projects to 443 in 400 villages. All construction is planned to finish by mid-2021. Further, AFN has developed, disseminated, and facilitated trainings on nine guidelines and tools, with the farmer to farmer guidelines receiving IFAD approval in 2020. The project does not anticipate developing additional guidelines. 

As a part of the strengthening public services component, the project has continued its technical support to 14 Technical Service Centers (TSCs), specifically to establish demonstration sites (green- and net-houses, poultry and frog raising, forage production). During the reporting period 312 additional Lead Farmers were selected and trained out of which 67 are women, bringing the total to 692 Lead Farmers (105 women).  

The project has also established community driven agriculture-based nutrition interventions. In 2020, FNSs expanded to include all 400 villages. The project provided 1,131 village facilitators with refresher training, including on the new activities of cooking demonstration and home garden visits, who then carried out FNS learning sessions with 14,453 participants, of whom 93 percent were women. The new cooking sessions show participants and other interested villagers practical cooking methods using nutrient-dense foods grown and produced in the village, for which WFP developed two illustrated booklets in Lao language, one on nutrient-dense crops and one with recipes for them. Additionally, during the last six months of 2020, AFN helped form 57 Agriculture Production Groups (APGs) with 2,110 members, of which are 1,055 women, and disbursed 204 grants of approximately US$6,000 each to the groups, which include a beneficiary contribution of about 25 percent. This brings the total number of APGs formed to 818 with 13,831 members, of whom 6,773 are women, and 688 APGs that have received their investment funds. 

Contact

Thomas Rath
IFAD Country Director and Representative, Vietnam, Thailand and Lao PDR
t.rath@ifad.org

Sarah Gordon-Gibson
Task Leader for WFP
sarah.gordon-gibson@wfp.org