Feed the Future Invests in Next Generation of African Nutrition Researchers

August 27, 2013
Jeffrey K. GriffithsElizabeth Atim, a MSc student from Makerere University’s School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-Engineering, presents her research at a symposium organized by the Feed the Future Nutrition Innovation Lab, which is led by Tufts University.

There is an inextricable link between agriculture and nutrition, which is why Feed the Future is committed to developing programs that comprehensively address the chronic hunger and undernutrition that prevent children from growing up to lead healthy, productive lives. One way the initiative supports better nutrition is by investing in research that investigates how agriculture, nutrition and health programs can best be integrated to improve nutrition for mothers and children on a large scale.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Nutrition is led by Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, which also partners with public health and agriculture programs at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Purdue, and Tuskegee universities. The Nutrition Innovation Lab aims to discover the most effective approaches to achieving Feed the Future’s nutrition targets, in part by supporting graduate-level training and capacity building for researchers pursuing degrees in nutrition-related fields. 

For example, Feed the Future is helping 14 graduate students in Uganda pursue critical research in public health, applied nutrition, agricultural extension and agricultural economics, equipping them to build Uganda’s long-term capacity to address its own challenges in hunger and undernutrition. With support from the Nutrition Innovation Lab, the students are working in 38 districts in Uganda and investigating topics including food safety, gender roles in household decision-making, crop and dietary diversity, HIV/AIDS, and vitamin A nutrition education. They are also strengthening their skills in research design, data collection and analysis, and presentation of their findings so they can contribute to national and global understanding of nutrition’s role in combating food insecurity. 

In June 2013, the Ugandan students had the opportunity to publicly present their nutrition research at Makerere University in Kampala during a symposium organized by the Nutrition Innovation Lab and attended by representatives from government, civil society, academia and research institutions.

Joshua Ssemakula, who is pursuing his Master of Science degree in applied human nutrition at Makerere University, says the symposium “was a great opportunity for me to learn how to incorporate agriculture, nutrition and health into my research work. Critiques on my presentation…especially those from professors at Tufts, helped me to get a better insight and understanding of my research direction.”

Research supported by the Nutrition Innovation Lab emphasizes nutrition for pregnant and lactating women, as well as the critical 1,000-day window from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday. All research projects support the Lab’s overarching goal to build human and institutional capacity at local and national levels to identify problems, apply appropriate research tools, assess intervention options, implement best practices and document impact.