New frontiers for 21st century food systems


by kkeeton | July 29, 2016

As nutrition gains more prominence in the global development agenda, research has evolved to explore ways for agriculture and other sectors to become more nutrition-sensitive. One way this is happening is through a shift in focus from agricultural production, to one explores a broader food systems perspective, emphasizing consumption and demand as well.

While this kind of approach is less common, A4NH is among the few pioneering initiatives to embrace it, as outlined in a recent article in Sight and Life magazine, co-authored by A4NH director, John McDermott. Since its start, A4NH has incorporated a multisectoral approach that looks beyond the farm when considering the role of agriculture and food, not only in improving people’s nutrition and health, but also in bringing more economic value to low- and lower-middle income countries.

The article presents new directions for food systems research and action, demonstrating the potential for a food systems approach to improve people’s nutrition and health, and also curb healthcare costs in both industrialized as well as emerging economies.

In addition to highlighting A4NH’s approach, the article also presents another emerging concept in this field, Convergent Innovation (CI), a platform which fosters change by instilling social and environmental objectives of agriculture, food product development, nutrition, and health into business strategies. Research based on CI focuses on agricultural commodities of high strategic importance at all geographic levels, and brings together a range of players, from smallholder farms and local markets, to global markets and large businesses—all competing and collaborating for better distributed value addition.

CI takes food as the transformational layer between agriculture and the health of people, economy, and planet.

Both A4NH and CI have the potential to offer new insights, especially for decision-makers and researchers in low-income, emerging, and industrialized economies, which can improve food security, reduce undernutrition, shape food habits, and strengthen convergence between human and economic development.


  • Read the full article in Sight and Life magazine here.