East Africa / Food security / Humid Tropics / HUMIDTROPICS / ILRI / SLS / West Africa

What works where for whom? Estimating effects of interventions on food availability in African households

At this week’s (3-6 March 2015) international conference on Integrated Systems Research for Sustainable Intensification in Smallholder Agriculture in Nigeria, Randall Ritzema, a systems analyst with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave a presentation explaining ‘what works where for which farm household‘ based on a study that assessed effects of different interventions on food availability across household distributions in East and West Africa.



CGIAR systems research programs seek to improve the livelihoods of millions of smallholder households across the developing world. Differing economic, societal, political and biophysical contexts cause significant variability in both food security and poverty levels across these households and, furthermore, affect the way that different households are likely to respond to interventions. As a result, when targeting research, it is important to not only be able to quantitatively estimate effects of proposed interventions on livelihoods, but to also understand the relative importance of these effects across distributions of households.

Ritzema presented findings of intervention analysis in 1800 households from research sites in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda, that looked at three agricultural and economic intervention scenarios against baseline conditions of food availability as measured by changes to a ratio of energy from available food to energy requirements per household. The results show the distribution of benefits across households and will assist in planning and implementing future interventions.

Some key findings from the study are:

  • Analysis of food availability ratios across distributions of households provides some indication of the relationship between livelihood strategies, relative poverty and food security in the study sites. These distributions clarify thresholds in food availability vs. household livelihood strategies, contributing important information to intervention strategy formulation.
  • Increases in agricultural productivity are more likely to benefit farm households that range from nearly food-secure to well-off. The very poor and highly food-insecure benefit little.
  • Improving the plight of the very poor or highly food-insecure will likely entail non-agricultural interventions, i.e. those focused on wage and labor conditions.

The ramifications of these findings are discussed and areas for follow-on research are highlighted.

The paper is co-authored by Randall Ritzema (ILRI), Romain Frelat (ILRI and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, CIMMYT), Sabine Douxchamps (ILRI), Silvia Silvestri (ILRI), Mariana Rufino (Center for International Forestry Research), Mario Herrero (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation), Ken Giller (Wageningen University and Research Centre), Santiago Lopez-Ridaura (CIMMYT) and Mark van Wijk (ILRI).

More about the conference:

Web page

Twitter hashtag: CGIAR_Systems

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