The importance of nutrition status in a child’s first 1,000 days is well-established and provide an excellent platform for high returns and cost-effectiveness for agencies focusing on nutrition. Despite a long research history on the impact of food aid, however, the theories of change and how impact are delivered are not, necessarily, clear cut in all contexts.
Much learning to date tends to exhibit three features. The first is a propensity to focus on what assists in the recovery from shocks. Accordingly, it is not immediately obvious how a given intervention performs, or can be expected to perform, in situations of chronic or prolonged food insecurity. Second is a focus on “nutrition-specific” programming. The impacts of nutrition-sensitive programming, by contrast, have not appeared prominently in micro-level research. Third, is that studies to date have tended to focus on a small number of scenarios that are “ideal” for food aid to perform well. That is, in locations with relatively stable populations, with regular access to health centers and with no threats of fragility or conflict.
In this project, we study three research questions focused on addressing these respective knowledge gaps. First, we seek to understand the performance of nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programming in the context of long-term, chronic malnutrition and food insecurity in Niger. Second, we contrast and compare the relative performance of two forms of programming: a bundle of nutrition-specific food-provision assistance programs; and a nutrition-sensitive “food for assets” program that does not, explicitly, aim to boost nutrition. Third, we ask whether or not it is possible to trace positive nutrition impacts from one or other of these bundles of programming in the highly fragile environment of Niger.