The extent to which public and private sector-led EAS can integrate nutrition-sensitive measures in their work depends on their mandate; the motivation to change what services are provided (what reason does the EAS have to provide nutrition-sensitive advice?); and the means (operational funds, staff and management capabilities, training, job aids). Table 2 lists some of the opportunities and challenges for the two sectors.
In any case, EAS must consider that integrating nutrition-sensitive measures in their services will put additional strain on staff time and resources. Conflicts in staff deployment between technical advisory and nutrition-sensitive measures are to be avoided.
BOX 1: Delivery in the local context
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) promotes nutrition-sensitive EAS with delivery methods tailored to the local context. In rice-farming systems, GIZ partners with rice milers and their extension agents to improve the production and incomes of farmers in outgrower schemes. In addition, GIZ mainstreams family nutrition education and technical advice on crop diversification (sesame, soybean, vegetables) in the EAS. To economically empower women, GIZ disseminates improved rice-parboiling techniques, and links women processors to off-takers. In cacao-producing systems, GIZ combines EAS on cacao production with extension messages related to diversification with nutritious crops and animal-sourced products. All partner extension agents are trained in business skills and nutrition education.
Evidence of impacts, sustainability, and scalability Impacts
Integrating a nutrition-sensitive approach within agricultural extension is quite a recent endeavour, but given the high priority that the global development agenda places on a multisector strategy to improve nutrition, it is on the rise.
Preliminary evidence indicates that the largest impact of nutrition-sensitive EAS is in improving agricultural productivity, food production, and income generation from agriculture. This is only partially contributing to improving the nutrition of rural households. Progress towards this goal depends on the extent to which attention to gender and nutrition education are integrated into EAS.
Sustainability of nutrition-sensitive messages in public-sector EAS requires a clear institutional mandate and sustained availability of resources. Despite some progress, this is not always a given. Private-sector EAS are dependent on the business decision of the company to which they are affiliated. Changes in commercial strategy that alter the mandate of an EAS to provide nutrition messages cannot be excluded.
Once the initial investment in capacity building and know-how accumulation has been made, the scalability of nutrition-sensitive approaches is high, as relevant messages can be mainstreamed in the daily work of the EAS.