Nutrition-sensitive agriculture programs hold substantial promise for improving access to nutritious food in contexts like rural Nepal. Yet, implementing such programs in geographically and culturally diverse settings can be challenging. To better understand the contextual factors that influence the ability of program participants to benefit from agriculture-nutrition interventions, we qualitatively examined the implementation of Helen Keller International’s Homestead Food Production program (HFP) in far-western Nepal. Data collection consisted of shadowing program staff for three months, interviewing program participants (n = 31) and staff (n = 10), and conducting three focus-group discussions with female community health volunteers (n = 28). An integrated food and nutrition system framework guided thematic analysis. Participants demonstrated high levels of knowledge about the program’s nutrition messages and expressed interest in and motivation to engage in the HFP program. However, access to water, land, and time determined the extent to which their full participation in the program was feasible. Factors within the biophysical and sociocultural environments interacted to influence access to these crucial resources. Some program participants and staff provided examples of ways in which they overcame these contextual constraints. These included investing in micro-irrigation equipment, arranging land-sharing agreements, and demonstrating more equitable gender norms. Successfully implementing nutrition-sensitive agriculture requires addressing context-specific structural barriers, particularly when aiming to benefit the most vulnerable. Long-term solutions to the barriers faced by the most marginalized households will require broad structural changes. However, problem-solving strategies used by program participants and staff also point towards immediate actions that programs can take to expand the potential for marginalized households to fully participate.
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Funding for this research was provided by a Student Research Grant from the Fulbright Program and the first author also was supported through a Center for a Livable Future—Lerner Fellowship during data analysis and manuscript preparation. We would like to acknowledge the many staff members of Suaahara and Helen Keller International who provided extensive logistical support and guidance on this research (Dale Davis, Peter Oyloe, Nirmala Pandey, Madhukar Shrestha, Bishow Neupane, Badri Paudel, Rajeev Bandera, Gagan Thagunna, Lokendra Thapa, Purna Humal, Satya Joshi, Amrit Pandey, Chitra Subedi, Krishna Chapagai), as well as the members and staff of Women’s Development Forum Bajura, particularly Meena Shahi and all the Bajura field supervisors. The first author would also like to acknowledge Geeta Manandhar for providing excellent Nepali language training and Laurie Vasily for her advice and encouragement. Finally, we greatly appreciate the many program participants and female community health volunteers (FCHVs) who participated in this research.
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Broaddus-Shea, E.T., Shrestha, B.T., Rana, P.P. et al. Navigating structural barriers to the implementation of agriculture-nutrition programs in Nepal. Food Sec. 12, 679–690 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-020-01031-0