Macro-level interventions: A
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Macro-level interventions studies at ANH2020


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ANH2020: Macro-level interventions A


Speakers and presentations:

  • Session chair: Jan Low, International Potato Centre (CIP)
    @JanLow1 @Cipotato

  • Helen Walls, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
    @helenwalls @LSHTM
    Political economy of Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme and its dietary impact
    Presentation | Slides

  • Shweta Gupta, International Food Policy Research Institute
    Best intentions, failed execution: Zinc subsidy in Andhra Pradesh
    Presentation | Slides

  • Martha S. E. Williams, Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute
    @mrthswilliams @SlariInfo
    Sensory profile and consumer acceptability of fufu produced from bio-fortified cassava roots

  • Solomon Amoabeng Nimako, University of Nairobi
    Agricultural commercialization and diet quality in Northern Ghana: The mediating effect of fertilizer subsidies
    Presentation | Slides


Political economy of Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme and its dietary impact

Helen Walls1

Deborah Johnston2

Mirriam Matita3

Jacob Mazalale4

Tayamika Kamwanja5

Richard Smith6

1Faculty of Public Health & Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

2Department of Economics, SOAS University of London

3Department of Economics, University of Malawi

4Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources

5School of Business, University of Leicester

6College of Medicine and Health, University of Exeter


Although there has been a resurgence of interest in agricultural input subsidy programmes to boost agricultural productivity and food security (1, 2), there is limited evidence on the political economy factors that determine their success, especially in regard to policy implementation and dietary impact. Linder and Peters (1989) synthesised top-down and bottom-up theories of policy implementation to identify several factors that play a role in shaping policy implementation choices and impact. This paper builds on existing qualitative work of a prominent agricultural input subsidy, Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), to examine implications of the policy implementation for population nutrition.       


As part of a larger work programme examining FISP impact on dietary diversity (3), we conducted (2017/18) semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders at national/district levels, and focus group discussions with people from rural communities of two districts of Malawi. The semi-structured interviews (24 in total) were undertaken with: national policymakers from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development; district council respondents from Lilongwe and Phalombe Districts; local non-state actors; and village chiefs in Lilongwe and Phalombe Districts. We recruited individuals for interview initially purposively, and later using a snowballing approach. The focus group discussions (8 in total, 4 with men and 4 with women) were undertaken in Lilonge and Phalombe Districts, and participants were recruited with the support of village chiefs. Interview guides were informed by the Walt & Gilson Policy Triangle framework for understanding policy processes (4), and the domains of Shiffman and Smith considered important for analysing political priorty accorded an issue (5). We analysed data thematically, and iteratively developed an analysis framework. All participants provided informed consent. Ethical approval was provided by Malawi’s National Committee on Research Ethics on Social Sciences and Humanities and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.


Our interviews and focus group discussions suggest no impact of the FISP on dietary diversity in any significant way, but suggest that this is due to food security characteristics of the population, and FISP policy design and implementation. Even with low prices of maize, people would likely still prioritise maize over diversifying their diets, due to high levels of food insecurity. Issues relating to policy design and implementation that may help explain the limited impact shown include: the targeting of the programme, lack of policy coordination and late distribution of coupons, and the sharing and sale of coupons. Our analysis highlights the fungible nature of the leakage of FISP coupons through sale and through gifting to family and friends. The political economy of this including in regard to patronage and economic inequality make these channels significant. The data also point to the way that on-the-ground decision-making amongst the people targeted by a policy critically influences the impact of the policy. Thus, our analysis also highlights a key component that should be added to the Linder and Peters (1989) synthesis of top-down and bottom-up policy implementation perspectives: the influence of political economy at the grassroots level. 


The findings in regard to agricultural policy design, impact, and population characteristics are critically important for consideration by policymakers and other stakeholders seeking to understand how best to improve population nutrition and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. These issues have particular relevance to addressing malnutrition in rural, food-insecure populations of low-income countries.


Morris M, Kelly V, Kopicki R, Byerlee D. Fertilizer use in African agriculture. Washington, D.C., USA: World Bank, 2007.

Jayne T, Rashid S. Input subsidy programs in sub-Saharan Africa: a synthesis of recent evidence. Agricultural Economics. 2013;44(6):547-62.

Walls H, Johnston D, Matita M, Chirwa E, Mazalale J, Quaife M, et al. Do agricultural input subsidies improve dietary diversity? A case study of Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP). Submitted. 2020.

Walt G, Gilson L. Reforming the health sector in developing countries: the central role of policy analysis. Health Policy and Planning. 1994;9(4):353-70.

Shiffman J, Smith S. Generation of Political Priority for Global Health Initiatives: A Framework and Case Study of Maternal Mortality. The Lancet. 2007;370(13).

Best intentions, failed execution: Zinc subsidy in Andhra Pradesh

Avinash Kishore1

Muzna Alvi1

Shweta Gupta1

Vartika Singh1

1International Food Policy Research Institute


The Soil Health Card initiative, launched by GOI in 2015 highlighted significant micronutrient deficiency in Andhra Pradesh (AP), India, particularly of zinc. Despite increase in subsidy on zinc from 50% in 2014-15 to 100% in 2017-18, preliminary data shows that 32% of agricultural land in the state remains zinc deficient and adoption of zinc, both free and paid, remains low. This study aims to understand the challenges faced by key stakeholders in the micronutrient subsidy scheme in AP that inhibit functioning of the scheme effectively. Against this backdrop, an alternative scheme with a targeted approach is proposed.


For this study, we followed a mixed methods approach. We conducted diagnostic surveys of 1620 farming households, 61 government extension officers (EOs) engaged in the implementation of the scheme, and 78 fertilizer dealers (private and cooperative based) in early 2019. Top six paddy producing districts in the state were chosen- Srikakulam, East Godavari, West Godavari, Krishna, SPSR Nellore and Chittoor, covering nearly 135 villages. The survey included questions on types of micronutrients used and distributed, extent of their use, awareness about subsidy programme, nature of work with respect to the scheme, issues in implementation and consumer demand, along with respondent demographics. We used OLS and linear probability models to determine the factors affecting zinc adoption. In addition, key informant interviews were conducted with farmers and extension agents. Additionally, Soil Health Card data and Digital Soil Maps, generated by CIMMYT were used to undertake costing assessment of alternative policy scenarios that can enable targeted and efficient subsidy disbursal. We estimated the potential area that is zinc deficient, under different thresholds, and the financial outlay needed to cover this deficiency.


We find that information about benefits of zinc and ability to identify zinc deficiency in crops play a key role in adoption. However, EOs, who potentially, are a major source of such information, are unable to carry out the necessary extension work since a substantial portion of their time is spent in other implementation activities of the scheme. Only 20% of the farmers reported to have known or interacted with their village EO. Nearly 53% of the farmers were unable to identify zinc deficiency and more than half of them reported non-usage of Zinc in the last 2 seasons. Additionally, 20% farmers cited extension staff as their major source of information.


Benefit programmes come at a huge cost to the state and demand pilot assessments backed by evidence before they get scaled up. They put an enormous amount of human and monetary resources at stake, which can impact the objectives of the programme upon misallocation. In our analysis, we find that appropriate reallocation of resources can help in covering twice the zinc deficient area covered in 2017-18 and 10 times the area targeted in Rabi season, 2019-20, with no additional cost to the government.


2019. White Paper on Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, Sericulture, Dairy Development, Fisheries & Agricultural Marketing Departments, Government of Andhra Pradesh.

2018-19. Agriculture Action Plan, Government of Andhra Pradesh. 3. Akudugu, M., Guo, E., & Dadzie, S. 2012. Adoption of modern agricultural production technologies by farm households in Ghana: What factors influence their decisions.

Sensory profile and consumer acceptability of fufu produced from bio-fortified cassava roots

Martha S.E. Williams1, 2, 3

Olusegun O. Onabanjo2

Nyahabeh. M. Anthony1, 2, 3

Emmanuel B. Oguntona2

Busie. Mayiza-Dixon3

1Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute (SLARI)
2Federal University of Agriculture 
3International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)


Biofortification of staple crops such as cassava is a food-based approach that has been adopted to address micronutrient deficiencies. The introduction of slightly new or modified products might have some sensory and consumer acceptability implications. The primary consideration for selecting and eating a food commodity is the sensory parameters while nutrition and wholesomeness are secondary. The timely, successful development and launch of new products depend on how decisions are reached and new product strategies are formulated (Singh-Ackbarali & Maharaj 2014). This study, therefore, examines the sensory profile and consumer acceptance of biofortified fufu.


Quantitative descriptive analysis was used to determine the sensory profile of the 28 fufu samples before selecting five samples for consumer acceptance testing using a 5 - point hedonic scale. For the descriptive analysis, 10 trained panelists developed and evaluated 13 fufu descriptors. In consumer testing, 400 consumers evaluated the acceptability of five fufu samples. The samples included six genotypes of yellow-fleshed and one white genotype cassava roots, processed into fufu using conventional (sun-dried and oven-dried) and traditional (traditional bowl and traditional river) methods. A pilot study using 20 evaluators was also conducted in a nearby locality before the general study to ascertain the appropriateness of the parameters and understanding of the evaluators' form. Data were analyzed using ANOVA and means were separated using Duncan’s multiple range test. Principal component analysis (PCA) was also performed to summarize the sensory characteristics of the samples.


The result revealed significant differences (p<0.05) in all the scores of the various fufu attributes. The first two PCA with Eigenvalues of 6.6326 and 2.0797 accounted for 67.02% of the variance and the effects of processing methods were revealed by the PCA. Four sensory profiles were created for colour (yellow, white, cream, and creamy white). The mean score for yellow colour ranged from 0.4 to 10.2 while the white colour score w means ranging from 0.2 to 10.2. Also, two sensory profiles were created each for odour (fermented and odourless) and appearance (smooth and fibrous). The texture had four sensory profiles (soft texture, elastic texture, mouldable texture, and sticky texture). The sour taste was the only sensory profile created by panelists for taste and mean scores ranged from 0.9 to 10.2. The consumer acceptability result revealed significant differences (p<0.05) between the various yellow fufu samples relative to the control (white fufu). The mean values ranged from 2.66 to 4.29 for colour, 2.57 to 4.05 for taste, 2.73 to 3.91 for aroma, 2.90 to 3.89 for texture, 2.74 to 4.06 for appearance and 2.67 to 3.99 for the overall acceptability.


The sensory profile identified yellow colour, fermented odour, smooth appearance mouldable texture and sour taste as the most preferred parameters for yellow fufu and processing methods had effects on the sensory profile of the fufu. The overall consumer acceptability indicates that fufu produced from genotype TMS – 083724 using the traditional river method was the most accepted by the consumers and was comparable to the control.


Singh-Ackbarali, D. and Maharaj, R. 2014. Sensory Evaluation as a tool in determining Acceptability of Innovative Products Developed by Undergraduate Students in Food Science and Technology at The University of Trinidad and Tobago. Journal of Curriculum and Teaching Vol. 3, No. 1.

Agricultural commercialization and diet quality in Northern Ghana. The mediating effect of fertilizer subsidies

Solomon Amoabeng Nimako1

Rose Nyikal1

Chris Ackello-Ogutu1

1Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nairobi, Kenya


A key tenet of economic development is the transition from subsistence-based farming to commercialized systems. One major goal of most government support programs is to boost commercialization through increased marketable surpluses. In the food security literature, the general belief is that commercialization impacts diets and nutrition status positively. However, evidence to this is limited, contextual and largely inconclusive. More specifically, how this relationship is shaped by input subsidies is not well established. To contribute to this discussion, this study set out to investigate the commercialization pathway linkages from staple-biased input subsidies and dietary diversity of rural households.


To achieve this objective, the study used data collected from 247 randomly selected rural farm households from the Upper West region of Ghana, which is the country’s most deprived region and has the highest prevalence of malnutrition. A three step sampling process was used to select respondent households. Data was collected on households’ participation in and use of inputs from the country’s fertilizer subsidy program; crop production and marketing; food consumption and socioeconomic characteristics. Commercialization was measured by the quantity of maize output sold and the share of total maize output sold, whereas diet quality was measured by the Food Consumption Score (FCS). Descriptive statistics including t-test and chi square analysis were used to compare the production, marketing and food consumption outcomes between participants and non-participants of the government subsidy program. A three-step econometric approach was used to analyze the commercialization pathway effects of the subsidy program on household diets. The first two stages of this approach involved predicting the level of commercialization of households while accounting for their use or otherwise of government subsidized inputs. The third stage evaluates the implications of maize commercialization, influenced by the input subsidies, for household diet quality measured by the FCS.


Findings of the study show that the fertilizer subsidy program increased both the quantity of maize sold and the share of maize output sold significantly. However, contrary to general expectations, maize commercialization appeared to contribute negatively to the nutritional diversity, suggesting that as far as food security is concerned, households did not gain properly from the benefits of increased commercialization. More critically, the results suggest that the losses in diet quality arising from maize commercialization were slightly higher in the presence of input subsidies. This was observed to occur partly through an over-concentration on the subsidy-biased crop (maize), hence reducing the level consumption diversification coming from own production. In essence, the subsidy program lead to households sacrificing nutrition diversity from own production for higher incomes. In such a situation, if the local markets are not well-functioning enough to supply diversity back to households, the nutritional benefits of commercialization arising from the governments support program will not be realized. It was as well observed that the subsidy program appeared to distort the traditional crop combination strategies of households, placing a bigger burden on the supported crop to serve both income and subsistence purposes, hence contributing to the negative effect on diets.


In conclusion, this study demonstrates that input subsidies are associated with increased commercialization. However, the findings disprove the generally held notion that commercialization is associated with nutritional gains. Importantly, the tendency of support programs to create an over-reliance on the subsidy-biased crop appear to derail the food consumption benefits through reduced diversity in local availability and over-burdening the supported crop with both income and subsistence roles. We recommend an improvement in local physical and market infrastructure to support consumption diversity from the market; and support to domestic cash crops to ease the economic pressure on local staples.


Bellon, M. R., D., Gervais , B., Ntandou, C., Francesco. 2016. On-farm diversity and market participation are positively associated with dietary diversity of rural mothers in Southern Benin, West Africa. PloS one 11 (9). 

Carletto, C., P., Corral, A., Guelfi. 2017. Agricultural commercialization and nutrition revisited: Empirical evidence from three African countries. Food Policy (67 )106-118.

Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), Ghana Health Service (GHS), and ICF International. 2015. Ghana Demographic and Health Survey 2014. Rockville, Maryland, USA.

Fan, S., R., Pandya-Lorch, H., Fritschel. 2011. Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health: The Way Forward. Edited by Shenggen Fan and Rajul Pandya-Lorch. P.201-208.

Pellegrini, L., L., Tasciotti, L. 2014. Crop diversification, dietary diversity and agricultural income: empirical evidence from eight developing countries. Canadian Journal of Development Studies/Revue canadienne d'études du développement, 35(2) 211-227.

Pingali, P., 2015. Agricultural policy and nutrition outcomes–getting beyond the preoccupation with staple grains. Food Security, 7(3) 583-591.

Snapp, S.S., M., Fisher. 2015. “Filling the maize basket” supports crop diversity and quality of household diet in Malawi. Food Security, 7(1), pp.83-96.

World Food Programme 2008. Food consumption analysis: Calculation and use of the food consumption score in food security analysis. United Nations Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping Branch.

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