New Paper From A4NH: Food Systems for Healthier Diets in Ethiopia

Photo: Liya Dejene/ILRI

The Food Systems for Healthier Diets flagship, established as part of A4NH’s second phase, is taking an in-depth look at food systems in priority countries. This analysis is designed to create a solid understanding of characteristics of these food systems and help to define goals, entry points for possible interventions, and a research agenda for the coming years.

A discussion paper by the Food Systems for Healthier Diets Working Group, profiling the first evaluation, in Ethiopia, has just been published by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

“This first evaluation was a particularly important one for our work,” noted Inge Brouwer, Associate Professor of Food and Nutrition at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands and FSHD flagship leader. “Not only does it provide us with a road map to move forward with our work in Ethiopia, but it also taught us valuable lessons about the process which we will be able to apply as we undertake similar efforts in other countries.”

The innovative approach followed a methodological and thorough process that involved:

  • several rounds of consultations at the national level, to gather opinions, insights and test ideas for approaches as the overall process;
  • an in-depth literature review of food system characteristics based on existing research and the national context in Ethiopia; and
  • the gradual development of a finalized research agenda.

In addition to developing a profile of the Ethiopian food system, the group identified 25 research questions to determine priority areas for work. These questions fell into three categories:

  • diagnosis and foresight research, to better understand dietary gaps, transitions, and dynamics;
  • implementation research and building a base of evidence around innovations, trade-offs, and interactions between actors; and
  • institutional and policy processes and other factors involved in scaling up innovations.

The group is now working on several priorities identified during this process. One, in partnership with the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, involves developing food-based dietary guidelines, which will play a central role in educating people, policy makers, and food industries on what makes up a healthy diet. Another will build local capacity in food systems research through a small grants project targeting graduate students in Ethiopian universities.

Through activities such as these, FSHD researchers are building strong partnerships with stakeholders in Ethiopia, including government, NGOs, research institutions, and development partners. This creates a foundation for future collaboration as work moves forward to improve food systems in ways that have real, positive, and lasting impacts for people throughout Ethiopia.


The Food Systems for Healthier Diets research flagship is led by Wageningen University and Research, in collaboration with Bioversity International, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, the International Food Policy Research Institute, and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, which are A4NH Managing Partners, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition. Click here for more news about work being done under this flagship.

Ethiopia is a focus country for A4NH research.