Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN)

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Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN)

The Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) project is an innovative way of tackling the root causes of poverty and hunger.

RAIN resources

A rich bank of knowledge about the issues in RAIN was created over the course of the project. The final report gives an overview of the methodology, process, impacts and lessons learned. Meanwhile, this series of six briefs published during RAIN offers insights into specific aspects of the project – such as the role of gender in agriculture for nutrition or the rationale for choosing the project area, Mumbwa District.

·         Final RAIN report

·         Project brief 1: Rationale, Model and Implementation in Mumbwa District

·         Project brief 2: Impact Evaluation: Methods and Baseline Results

·         Project brief 3: Intersectoral Coordination and Alignment for Nutrition

·         Project brief 4: The importance of gender in agriculture for nutrition

·         Project brief 5: Working Multisectorally in Mumbwa District to Improve Nutrition

·         Project brief 6: Interpreting the RAIN impact evaluation

Why RAIN?

Mutakela Kwalombota is a participant in the Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) project in Lutende Area, Mongu District, Zambia. Photograph by Anne O'Mahony/Concern Worldwide.

Adequate nutrition during a child’s first two years – or 1000 days – is vital for their healthy growth and development throughout the rest of their lives. Sadly, in Zambia, nearly every second child, or 45% under the age of five, is suffering from chronic malnutrition. Concern's RAIN project aimed to boost nutrition during those early days and years by working with communities in Zambia’s Mumbwa district to combine programmes around agriculture with nutrition, health and gender. The key innovation in RAIN is that these activities focused on different sectors which were integrated together, instead of running parallel to each other. 

Agricultural diversity

In practice, RAIN supports families to diversify the food they grow in their homesteads and to rear small livestock such as goats and chickens. It encourages a move away from the traditional practice of growing just one crop – in Zambia, that crop is maize. As a result, families enjoy a more diversified diet including many different vegetables, legumes, fruits and animal products such as meat, eggs and milk. 

Members of the realigning agriculture to improve nutrition project (RAIN) in Zambia perform a dance. Photograph by Anne O'Mahony/Concern Worldwide.

Health and nutrition

Community Health Volunteers are also trained to provide nutrition support to mothers in their villages. This helps communities to take control of their own health. Mothers are taught the importance of nutrition during the 1,000 days of a child’s life from conception up till the child turns two. They’re also shown how to prepare more nutritious meals for their children.

Encouraging gender equality

Gender equality and women’s decision making are critical to ensuring household food and nutrition security. The RAIN project provides gender training to communities, traditional leaders, women’s groups and their husbands. It fosters awareness in communities in relation to gender issues to create an environment that respects women when they are pregnant, breastfeeding and caring for their children.

You take care of me. You are my father. (Mulandibamba kabotu, muli batata). Photo taken by Concern Worldwide.

Coordination and alignment

A unique component of the RAIN project is to ‘coordinate and align’ Zambian agriculture and health sector activities at the district and community levels. Coordination across sectors improves project impact, ensures sustainability and encourages replication, thereby better addressing malnutrition.

Replicable model

The RAIN project has been developed as a sustainable and replicable model that can be adapted for implementation across Zambia and other parts of the world as well.

Sustainable benefits

Part of the strength of the project design, and the cornerstone of its future impact, is the thorough monitoring and evaluation component. This aims to bridge the gap in literature on the impact of agricultural interventions on nutrition. By closely monitoring each stage, challenges can be identified and methods adapted and improved for greater future impact.

Naliekena Songiso, a participant in the Realigning Agriculture to Improve Nutrition (RAIN) project in Zambia, among her crops. Photograph by Kevin Carroll/Concern Worldwide.

RAIN impacts

The RAIN final report shows that RAIN brought a host of benefits to communities in the Mumbwa district. The project had a positive impact on agricultural production and women’s empowerment in the social, agricultural and economic spheres. Households have also improved food security, as measured by dietary diversity, and RAIN activities had a potentially protective effect on child wasting.

Work in progress

While RAIN has had tangible impacts on the communities involved, the project also threw up some unexpected outcomes. The evaluation shows that stunting was reduced significantly in both the control area and the project area, however it notes that this could not be attributed to the project. Additionally, no discernible impacts were recorded on improving infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices, or on improving caregiver health and nutrition knowledge.

RAIN honoured at nutrition awards

In collaboration with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Save the Children UK, the RAIN project was selected as one of the winners of SecureNutrition Knowledge Platform 2013. The winning projects were chosen for bridging the gaps between nutrition, agriculture, and food security. RAIN was chosen in the "greatest potential impact on nutrition" category. It was among the award-winning projects showcased at the Harvesting Nutrition event hosted at the World Bank headquarters in Washington in February 2015.

RAIN+

The results throw up interesting successes and lessons for the team, which is keen to learn from the rich source of impacts and lessons outlined in the evaluation. Based on the bank of knowledge built up through RAIN, RAIN+ – the follow-up project – was conceived and implemented.The final evaluation of RAIN + demonstrates the incredible impact of the revised programme: increasing women's self-confidence and autonomy; improving access to clean water and nutritious food; and transforming gender-related social norms. It also offers recommendations on how to make these impacts more sustainable and on how to progress the RAIN+ model from here. 

RAIN in the media

Reporter Judith Hill visited the RAIN project in Zambia. Watch her video reports for UTV:

 
 

Partners and funding

RAIN is carried out in partnership with Mumbwa Child Development Agency (MCDA) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and supported by the Kerry Group and Irish Aid.

More information