Research Brief #3: Nutrition CRSP Scientific Symposium: Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition in Nepal: Taking Stock and Defining Priorities

The Nutrition Collaborative Research Support Program (CRSP)- Asia through its partner, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, organized a two-day scientific symposium in Kathmandu, Nepal, co-hosted by the Department of Community Medicine and Public Health at the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The Nutrition CRSP is a multidisciplinary research consortium, which seeks to determine investments needed in agriculture, health and nutrition, institutional and human capacity development, and program development to achieve large-scale improvements in nutrition outcomes.

The preliminary report of the 2011 Nepal Demographic Health Survey shows an improvement in child nutritional status between 2001 and 2006 with stunting, wasting and underweight prevalence decreasing from 49% to 41%, 31% to 11% and 39 to 29%, respectively. Nonetheless, chronic undernutrition is still widespread, and wide disparities exist across socioeconomic groups and ecological regions with children from the poorest households and those living in the mountain and hill areas exhibiting the highest levels of stunting.

Nepal is one of the poorest countries in South Asia. A high proportion (estimates range from 25%-55%) of its population lives on less than <$1.25/day. More than 80%of the population works in the agricultural sector, most of whom work on subsistence-oriented family farms. Households employed in agriculture account for more than three quarters of Nepal?s poor. Many of these households were deeply affected by the protracted conflict, drought and other natural disasters. Improvements in agricultural productivity have not maintained pace with population growth, particularly among small landholders and female farmers, the latter constituting more than 60% of the agricultural labor force. In 2009, the World Food Programme reported that 43 of Nepal?s 75 districts faced a food deficit, and 23 districts were chronically food insecure. The inability of households to successfully ?weather? transitory food supply shocks from drought, flood, market failure, or civil strife can impact their nutritional intake, nutritional status and health.

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