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How Does Nutrition Feature in Climate-Smart Agricultural Policy in Southern Africa? A Systematic Policy Review

School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2785;
Submission received: 27 January 2021 / Revised: 22 February 2021 / Accepted: 26 February 2021 / Published: 4 March 2021


The ability to produce and supply more food that is both nutritious and environmentally sustainable is a momentous challenge facing Africa. Where climate change is expected to negatively impact the agricultural resource of many parts of Southern Africa specifically. Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) has emerged as an approach considered capable of transforming and realigning agricultural systems to support food and nutritional security, and development under a changing climate. For sustainable food and nutrition security to be achieved, an effective policy environment is required that supports the widespread adoption of CSA application. In light of this context, this study aims to better understand nutrition’s current position within CSA-related policy at the national level by systematically reviewing all agriculture-related policy documents across Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia, published between 2010 and 2019. The main findings show that efforts to address nutrition are being made within all countries and a sizeable number of policies, with crop-diversification and intensification presented as popular practices promoted as part of CSA. Nonetheless, the widespread adoption of these efforts remains weak and policies lack detail and instruction for the delivery of nutritional security. Cross-ministerial collaboration is recognised as essential for an improved policy environment, but few provide plans to strengthen such linkages or to include nutritional strategies. Clearer actions and policy outlines that promote nutrition as part of CSA are necessary if more effective action is to be achieved.

1. Introduction

The population of continental Africa is expected to reach 2.4 billion people by 2050, with poorer countries, including Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia expected to see five-fold increases in population [1]. In the coming decades the ability to produce more food that is both nutritious and environmentally sustainable, and capable of feeding a growing population is a momentous challenge facing Africa [2,3]. African nations will need to improve the nutritional status of 256 million people currently considered undernourished whilst satisfying increasing demands for agricultural production [4]. This challenge is compounded as malnutrition remains one of the least addressed socio-economic and health related issues in the region, adversely affecting the health and wellbeing of adults and children [5,6].
Many African countries have the potential to be food self-sufficient, substantially reducing present and future food deficits, by closing yield gaps through high-input agricultural practices [7]. Although possible, many challenges relating to the achievement of food and nutrition security are now intensified by the effects of climate change [8]. Global climate models indicate particular vulnerability within the Southern African region with major agricultural crop yields, including maize, millet, and sorghum anticipated to fall by 10–20% by 2050 [9,10]. The four pillars of food security will likely further be negatively impacted, comprising food availability, accessibility, utilization and system stability [11]. This will exacerbate the burden of malnutrition and the income generation of rural populations, undermining current efforts that reduce hunger. In turn undernutrition will weaken climate resilience and the coping strategies of vulnerable populations [12]. For it is the regions high dependence on rain-fed agriculture [13], low-resilience [14], and the fragility of its economics [15] that have left the region ill-equipped to tackle the harsh realities that climate change imposes.
Ensuring responses to climate change are effective will require careful consideration of all factors that influence resilience that relate to food systems, livelihoods and agricultural production [16]. These factors include the institutional environment, the policy context and the environmental conditions of a given context. Weak sectoral coherence and poor implementation of policy have both acted as significant constraints to effective food security and mitigation efforts [17,18]. Immediate-term disaster management issues, including droughts and floods, have taken precedence over longer-term strategies for climate adaptation and nutrition [19]. Given the far-reaching changes required within the sector, more ambitious policy options need developing [20].
The impacts of climate change on agricultural production requires governments and farmers to implement new strategies that alleviate these pressures [21]. In response to such concerns, Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) has emerged as an approach considered capable of transforming and realigning agricultural systems to support food and nutritional security, and development under a changing climate [22]. CSA aims to address three core objectives: sustainably increase agricultural activity and incomes; develop agricultural resilience to climate change; reduce and/or remove greenhouse gases through mitigation efforts [23]. CSA differs from "business-as-usual" agricultural development approaches by emphasising the capacity to implement flexible, context-specific solutions, that identify synergies and trade-offs among food security, adaptation and mitigation, as a basis for advising and reorienting policy in response to climate change [20]. Food and nutrition security will exist when access to an appropriately nutritious diet is supported by a sanitary environment, adequate health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active lifestyle [24]. As such, CSA acknowledges the role of diets in motivating agricultural productivity and draws attention to the diverse interconnections that span food supply, production, and consumption [25].
For sustainable food and nutrition security to be achieved, an effective policy environment that creates alignment across policy domains, accomplished through effective cross-ministry communication that allows for overlaps, gaps and trade-offs between departments to be overcome, is required [20]. An environment that can increase coordination across agricultural, climate change, development and food system policies, and one that ultimately cultivates, organises and supports the wide-spread adoption of CSA application [26]. Yet, policy support to agriculture in the region has historically proven highly volatile and unpredictable with insufficient attention paid to the prevention and risk mitigation of climate variability to food production [27]. Whilst not unique to the region, it is the weak efforts of policy makers and the disconnection between climate policy and agricultural policy that has thus far prevented Southern Africa from mainstreaming important agricultural practices [28].
With active development and implementation of CSA-facing policy across Southern Africa in recent years [29,30,31], the extent to which, and how, food and nutrition security is included in CSA-related policies requires study. This can be achieved through a systematic policy review. Previous discussion has been given to nutrition and CSA at household and village level respectfully [32,33], with some acknowledgment of its wider incorporation deemed necessary [34,35]. Previous policy reviews regarding CSA [36,37], have not, however, held a nutritional focus. Additionally, little to no analysis of policy documentation has systematically assessed CSA related policy environments with a specific focus on nutrition. There is, therefore, considerable interest in understanding what constitutes an enabling policy environment for the incorporation of nutrition into CSA related policy.
In light of this context, this study aimed to better understand nutrition’s current position within CSA-related policy at the national level by systematically reviewing all agriculture-related policy documents across Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia. As policy documents showcase the cultivation of pre-existing social processes, they allow relevant stakeholder views to be reflected in their writings and can be considered reliable accounts of existing policy paradigms within the region [38]. This is important because exact objectives and goals of CSA interventions will depend on the context, and given the multi-objective nature of CSA there is potential for trade-offs to be created that affect nutritional security, if not adequately considered. It is therefore hoped that this research will provide valuable new evidence to potential policy-makers and relevant stakeholders who hold an invested interest in the interactions between policy, CSA, and nutrition.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. Rationale for Country Selection

At the time of study (July 2019) Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia were chosen given their mutual status as a Least Developed Country (LDC) by the United Nations [39]—defined to be low-income countries facing severe impediments to sustainable development [40]. Each country displays high levels of vulnerability to economic and environmental shocks (measured by the economic vulnerability index) and significant human resource weakness (i.e., low levels of health, education and nutritional status specifically) [41]. As these criteria are further exacerbated by climate-related risks, CSA related policy is an important avenue for empowering governmental institutions considered weak or vulnerable [42].
Table 1 summarizes the development position of each country, with LDC status data provided by the UN [43,44,45]. All three countries identify agriculture as a catalyst for economic growth and development and are heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture to facilitate this. Each country suffers from high levels of undernourishment and therefore strong policies that promote nutritional security should be considered essential. Given this set of relatable factors, this makes this set of countries an appropriate group for assessment used to reflect the wider Southern African region.

2.2. Collection of Policy Documents

An internet search (using general search engines and key words and phrases related to [“Climate-Smart’’ AND “Agri-food Systems’’ AND “Policy’’ AND “Location’’]) was conducted in July 2019 for all publicly available national policies related to agriculture (defined broadly to include livestock, fisheries and crops), nutrition, health and climate change, published between 2010 and 2019. Given the FAO first launched the CSA concept in 2010, this timescale is deemed appropriate for review.
The Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) FAOLEX database was primarily used to source relevant policy documents. For countries where appropriate policy documentation could not be retrieved, national ministerial websites involved in agricultural or nutrition related interventions (i.e., ministries of health, welfare, or agriculture), and their respective government portals, were systematically browsed for publication retrieval.

2.3. Screening and Selection of Documents

The following inclusion criteria were used to include the policies in the analysis: (i) the policy is a publicly available document published between 2010 and 2019, (ii) the policy is the most up-to-date publication, (iii) the policy is of national concern, (iv) policy is related directly or indirectly to agricultural sector, (v) the policy addresses at least one CSA pillar (productivity, adaptation or mitigation). We report our findings as a systematic policy review. No document was excluded based on its title (e.g., “Policy’’ versus “Strategy’’ versus “Plan’’), but it must specify its national intention. No documents were excluded due to duplication.
The primary researcher independently screened documents for the inclusion criteria with full document screening additionally reviewed by an independent expert researcher to avoid subjectively when finalizing provisional list of included documents. Followed by a second-round screening for eligibility of full-text documents by the primary researcher with exclusions made for policy documents considered inappropriate, or the selected document failed to sustain significant relevance to study objectives (see inclusion criteria).

2.4. Description of Policies

The search strategy identified 113 non-duplicate and potentially relevant policy publications for review (108 retrieved from FAOLEX, five retried from secondary research strategy) (Figure 1). Of these 113 documents, one policy document was eliminated prior to the full-text screening as it was reported to be available but full document could not be obtained.
Of the 112 documents assessed for eligibility, 51 documents were eliminated given their publication was prior to 2010, 12 documents were determined not to be the most up-to-date policy statement available (examples include: the Sixth National Development Plan of Zambia being replaced by the Seventh National Development Plan in 2017), two documents were not of national scope (focusing on small-scale issues), four were not considered significantly relevant to agriculture nor its practices and 22 final documents were removed given they failed to address at least one CSA pillar.
The second round screening of the remaining 21 documents further led to the exclusion of four more documents, removed as they failed to provide adequate resources for an extensive review. A finalized list of 17 documents were selected for inclusion in the analysis (MW = 6, TZ = 6, ZM = 5, Table 2). International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) country codes are provided for clearer country separation, where MW is Malawi, TZ is Tanzania and ZM is Zambia, and policy reference codes are used when referring to specific documents throughout (Table 2).

2.5. Content Analysis

Structured content analysis was conducted by coding the selected documents using Nvivo-12 software. Documents were coded independently by a singular reviewer and approved by an independent secondary reviewer to minimize bias induced by subjective coding. Each document selected for review was guided by the objectives and research questions presented in Table 3, with key words and sub-objectives for coding structured as a coding tree. Queries were constructed for each research question and respective sub-question in Nvivo to extract all relevant text electronically. Results are presented and grouped into country related categories.

3. Results

3.1. CSA Definition and Characterization

Of the 17 policy documents reviewed, 71% (12/17) explicitly mention or cite CSA in their writings, but CSA related discussion varies significantly between countries and policies (Table 4). Zambian policy documents most commonly acknowledge CSA at least once (5/5), followed by Tanzania (3/6) and Malawi (3/6). Some only refer to CSA in passing; ‘‘there is a need for the government to promote climate-smart agriculture practices in the continued pursuit to promote food security at household and national levels’’ (p. 35) [61]. Others simply state intentions to promote CSA activity [47]. Whilst, others use the term extensively and provide large detail regarding what is understood to classify as CSA, as displayed within Tanzania’s Agriculture Climate Resilience Plan 2014–2019 (TZ-ACRP) [57].
Only 2 documents attempt to define their understanding of CSA, both retrieved from Tanzania. The TZ-ACRP [57] is the only policy document to explicitly define its understanding of CSA, using the FAO’s original definition (Table 4). Whilst the Agricultural Sector Development Programme Phase Two (TZ-ASDP II) [56], a more recent document that incorporates elements of the TZ-ACRP [57], instead uses its own interpretation of what constitutes CSA, seemingly setting out a national definition of CSA for Tanzania. CSA is further presented as an ‘’integrative approach to address interlinked challenges of food security, climate change and mitigation through: (i) adapting and building resilience of agricultural and food and nutrition security systems to climate change at multiple levels; and (ii) reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (including crops, livestock and fisheries)’’ (p. 48). This definition differs from the FAO’s as it incorporates food and nutrition security and mitigation efforts under one objective. No explicit definition of what defines CSA or its practices are found within either Malawian or Zambian publications, but both make efforts to promote the importance of developing and increasing CSA related activities.
All policies incorporate at least one CSA related practice into their objectives. Sustainable soil and water management practices are most commonly proposed (13/17 documents) with improved irrigation and water management systems subsequently deemed priority focus areas by several policies, considered critical adaptation measures (i.e., [51,56,62]). This is followed by cropland management activities (12/17); resilient crop varieties and diversification (10/17); soil fertility management (9/17); conservation agriculture (8/17); fishery management (8/17); livestock management (8/17); and agroforestry management (6/17). Cropland and soil fertility practices that include biofortification and integrated management systems, in particular, can deliver micronutrients to individuals and improve the nutritional status of soils but few documents promote these. No account for the institutional challenges in relation to the management of these systems, are however, presented.

3.2. Extent of Nutritional Inclusion in Policy

Actions to address nutritional security are provided in 59% (10/17) of reviewed documents (MW = 5, ZM = 3, TZ = 2). Of those papers that present ambitions to promote nutritional security, all but one document presents plans, efforts or measures to facilitate these efforts. The ZM-NAIP [62] identified the importance of food and nutrition security but failed to propose any measures to promote this. Five further policy documents incorporate 6 or more measures and are therefore considered more nutritionally inclusive [47,48,57,58,60]. No two policies possess an identical set of nutrition measures. Notable measures include the cultivation and consumption of indigenous crops and educating the population to consume them.
The diversification and intensification of crop production (7/17) and increased nutritional education of households (6/17) are the most commonly identified measures to promote nutritional security, appearing in 41% and 33% of documents respectfully. It is expected that by diversifying the food system a more diverse and nutritious range of produce can be obtained at the rural household level, allowing for improved awareness of those staple foods considered highly nutritious.
At least one CSA related measure is identified within all policy documents promoting nutritional security, except one [62]. The most common measures include crop diversification (7/11) [47,48,49,51,55,56,60], and the promotion of bio-fortification of staple food crops (4/11) [47,48,56,60]. All identified measures that related to CSA are further displayed in Table 5.
Little to no acknowledgement is explicitly given to CSA when presenting measures for nutritional security, but acknowledgment of the climatic related risk are found in 2/11 documents when discussing their objectives [46,62].

3.3. Cross-Ministry Cohesion (Policy Environment)

Acknowledgement of cross-policy/sectoral collaboration as an imperative for an improved policy environment is provided in 71% (12/17) of the reviewed documents, but at various degrees of detail. The MW-NFP [50] “promotes co-ordination and collaboration with other sectors in dealing with multi-sectoral issues, which have an impact on the environment and fishery resources” (p. 14), but does not provide any plans or measures to overcome this. Others, including the ZM-7NDP [58] not only identifies its importance but sets out strategies to enhance policy formulation.
Equal acknowledgement is provided across countries that for implementation to be achieved, coherence of related policies must be ensured through the encouragement of a multi-sectoral approach [47,53,56,58,62]. Ambitions to strengthen the linkages between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors is further identified in 8/17 documents [47,48,50,51,55,56,58,62], in the hope to align policy agendas and help all policies pursue similar national outcomes.
Challenges to effective policy implementation vary across documents but no significant difference between countries is found. Notable obstacles include: shortages of labour [46,47,51,60,62], lack of stakeholder representation [49,50,51,53], conflict of stakeholder interests [53,56,61] and weak stakeholder collaboration [53,61]. No attempts to highlight obstacles were provided by 4 documents [48,52,54,59].
Actions to address the collaboration and participation of stakeholders are most commonly proposed to ensure an enabling policy environment (12/17 documents; Table 6). Strategies to strengthen knowledge sharing between ministries and stakeholders (8/17 documents) [47,48,49,51,55,58,59,61] are further observed to support stakeholder participation and to address capacity gaps. At the ministerial level, actions to strengthen inter-sectoral coordination and collaboration to streamline policies that promote coherence are noted in 7/17 documents [46,47,55,56,58,60,62]. However, no further presentation of plans, measures or actions to successfully implement or facilitate this are found.
Efforts to improve policy environments that relate to CSA and nutrition are identified in 8 documents [47,48,53,55,56,57,58,62]. Enhanced CSA financing [48,56], improved seed fertilizer crop accessibility [55], and financial incentives for farmers [57] are notable avenues to enhance sustainable food and nutritional security, but are only identified once.

4. Discussion

4.1. CSA Definition and Practices in National Policy

CSA definitions and CSA related engagement varies significantly across countries and policies, with few defining or providing great detail on what constitutes CSA. In this study Tanzania is shown to have taken the most progressive strides in articulating what it understands to be CSA, both explicitly using the FAO’s original definition [57] and creating its own interpretation, incorporating food and nutrition security and mitigation efforts under one objective [56]. At the time of study, Zambia and Malawi did not have specific climate-smart policies in place, but both countries made efforts to promote and develop increased CSA related activity. Malawi promotes ‘climate-smart’ in the broadest sense [47], but fails to prioritize CSA related targets into its planning, process or funding applications. Whereas, Zambia identifies CSA as an important priority in relation to both adaptation and mitigation actions [58,59], and further recognizes the role of “CSA practices in the continued pursuit to promote food security at household and national levels” (p. 35) [61], but this does not explicitly incorporate nutrition. This is, nonetheless, an important approach given some farmers have responded more positively to ambitions framed around climate change, than those simply labelled ‘climate-smart’ [63].
Given the historical ambiguity of CSA’s foundational principles [64], perhaps such variation represents each countries reticence to definitively conclude what should constitute CSA in their given context. In Zambia in particular, nutrition is emphasized as a component of the productivity pillar of CSA in its Climate-Smart Agriculture Investment Plan [65] but this does not feature in its national policies examined here. No single guiding policy is further provided by any country at the time of writing, and the lack of clear understanding about the concept and how it should be implemented supports previous CSA assessment [66]. As such, there is potential for more explicit and ambitious policy statements that include nutrition as a component of food security in CSA to be created, across all countries.
A high number of CSA related practices are identified and this is expected given the diverse set of agricultural practices incorporated within CSA. All policies incorporate at least one CSA related practice into their objectives with sustainable soil and water management practices most commonly proposed. Improved irrigation and water management systems are subsequently deemed priority focus areas by several policies, considered critical adaptation measures [51,56,62]. This is justified given improved farm irrigation is twice as productive on average than pre-existing rain-fed systems in regards to food production [67]. Improvements to irrigation and water storage strategies can enhance efficiency, maintain crop yields and strengthen drought tolerance ultimately supporting the productivity and adaptation pillars of CSA. Nonetheless, common soil and water management challenges, including operation and maintenance responsibilities and costs to farmers, go unexplored with no focus towards nutrition.
Cropland and soil fertility practices including crop biofortification and integrated nutrient management systems are also notably presented. In addition to greater crop-yields, these can deliver more micronutrients to individuals and improve the nutritional status of soils overtime [68]. The widespread implementation of such practices across these countries does, however, remain weak. Often simply classified as policy-based adaptation actions intended for future application [69], that at the time of analysis lack strong application.

4.2. Extent of Nutrition in National Policy

Given nutrition is inextricably linked to agricultural development through food production, the fact only 11/17 reviewed documents attempt to address nutrition as an issue is concerning. When highlighted, crop-diversification and intensification are the most frequently promoted CSA measures, with crop-diversification commonly proposed through increased productivity of highly nutritive value crops (e.g., cassava, legumes, sweet potatoes), livestock and fish stocks (See [47,48,60]). The introduction of these economically attractive and drought-resilient crops can increase food availability and ensure food and nutritional security by establishing resilient agricultural systems [70,71]. Malawi specifically, has seen improvements to nutritional and dietary diversity in the past as a result of farm production diversity [72], strengthening the rationale for continued promotion in policy.
Measures to increase the nutritional education of households, children and small-scale farmers are also provided by more than half of the reviewed documents (e.g., [47,56,62]). Education is an important tool for informing households on the nutritional benefits of new crop seeds. The Tanzanian ACRP [57] specially recognises clear cases where education has significantly scaled up the adoption of CSA practices and has improved household knowledge on the nutritional risks relating to climate change. Education that promotes nutritious foods should continue to be used to improve the nutritional status of vulnerable populations.
Few policies analysed, however, went beyond simply stating a desire to promote nutritional security activities and lack instruction for goal delivery. General statements are often used to describe actions and strategies for education and diversification. These include “mainstream food and nutrition awareness across all agricultural sectors” [56] and “promote the diversification of agricultural production” [60], neither statement significantly informative. Policies should seek to outline clearer actions to mobilise stakeholders in order for more effective action to be taken. Furthermore, the impacts of climate change on these practices also requires consideration by policy makers. Improving knowledge of the nutritional risks related to climate change is therefore important [57]. As such, given nutritional security comprises many complex factors unsolvable by a single intervention, policies should seek to improve education and access to nutritious food simultaneously, otherwise the impact of one alone is limited.
The absence of nutrition in a sizable number of these policies does not, however, necessarily reflect the actions being taken within each respective country. Interventions promoting nutritional security and CSA have previously been implemented in countries without a definitive policy being published [73], and this therefore should not be overlooked.

4.3. Current Policy Environment

Whilst acknowledgment of cross-policy/sectoral collaboration as an imperative for an improved policy environment is strong, plans to strengthen cross-ministerial linkages between agricultural and non-agricultural sectors are, however, less common (i.e., [48,60]). The recognition of broader development objectives, not specific to nutrition, provides some proof of ambition to improve the connections between climate and agriculture related policy. Nonetheless, this number of policies remains small. Analysis by England et al. [17] supports these findings, presenting overall sectoral coherence for Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia produced mediocre scores for policy coherence ranging from 46–61%, where 100% equates to optimum cross-ministry coherence. These countries have further been shown to be lagging behind their regional neighbours, including Botswana and Swaziland [74].
In this study, actions to address weak collaboration and participation of stakeholders are most commonly proposed to ensure an enabling policy environment, promoting policy coherence (12/19 documents). Some acknowledge that stakeholders can enhance national and basin-level knowledge through shared information [47,51,60,61], indicating a desire to improve existing stakeholder participation. However, no actions to ensure sustained engagement are provided. Government ministries should seek to define clearer roles, responsibilities and targets as a result of collaborative efforts to better manage multi-stakeholder participation.
Challenges to effective policy implementation articulated in the documents vary but shortages of available trained labour are a notable concern [46,47,51,58,60,62]. Low labour availability has proven to be a constraint on the adoption of CSA related tools and practices by farmers [75]. Policies acknowledge that effective policy implementation and adoption is dependent upon the availability of resources (capital, labour and knowledge) by households. Policy actions to improve this are generally created through actions to increase household incomes [48,56,57]. Nonetheless, the policies analysed fail to realise that simply increasing incomes does not automatically improve education, food availability or nutrition security [75]. Policies should therefore seek more appropriate methods to increase the labour supply that also positively impacts nutritional security.

5. Conclusions

Climate-Smart Agriculture has emerged as an approach capable of transforming and realigning agricultural systems to support food and nutritional security under a changing climate, with Southern African governments exhibiting numerous policies and initiatives to promote CSA-related practices. In order for sustainable food and nutrition security to be achieved, an effective policy environment is imperative. Having received little research attention to date, this paper set out to understand what constitutes an enabling policy environment for the implementation of nutrition into CSA related policy. Focus was given to nutrition’s current position within CSA related policy at the national level in three Southern African Countries—Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.
This review concludes that at the time of writing, attempts to address nutrition are being made within all countries. Whilst all countries make efforts to promote the importance of CSA, few provide great detail in defining what should constitute CSA in their given context nor explicitly incorporate nutrition into these statements. Efforts to address nutritional security were found, but these lack detail and instruction for goal delivery. More explicit and ambitious policy statements that include nutrition as a component of food security in CSA are therefore required, across all countries. Increased consideration of nutrition interventions, scaled-up implementation of policies and a greater number of national commitments could ensure this [76].
Where attempts to address nutrition are identified in CSA policy, crop-diversification and intensification are presented as popular practices promoted as part of CSA. These can increase food availability and ensure food and nutritional security by establishing resilient agricultural systems [70,71]. The impacts of climate change on these practices, however, requires consideration by policy makers. Nutritional security is rarely exclusively concerned with the provision of adequate food supplies and improving stakeholder knowledge concerning the nutritional risks related to climate change and agricultural development are equally important [77].
Cross-ministerial collaboration is recognized as essential for an improved policy environment but few policies present plans to strengthen such linkages or include nutritional strategies. Reviewed policies identify challenges to successful coherence; however, explanations about why challenges to successful coherence are present and proposals to collaborate and harmonize policy efforts to improve coherence across agricultural and non-agricultural sectors are seldom. More research efforts to understand what successful policy coherence looks like in the context of agricultural development, food and nutrition security and climate change is, therefore, required to inform future policy.

Author Contributions

Authors co-designed the study and associate methodology. S.B. undertook the analysis and produced early drafts of the manuscript. S.M.S. supervised the analysis and provided support with the structuring and context of early drafts. S.M.S. also reviewed and provided editorial support to the final manuscript. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This work aligns with, and the staff time of S.M.S. was supported by, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council through UK Research and Innovation Funded Global Challenges Research Fund—AFRICAP programme—grant number BB/PO27784/1.


This research was presented in the Biennial Climate Smart Conference held between 1–2 December 2020. The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) supported the publication charges with funding from the CAADP-XP4 funding from the EC.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


The analysis and perspectives presented are those of the authors only and are independent of the institutions and organizations associated with the GCRF-AFRICAP programme.


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Figure 1. Policy Selection Process.
Figure 1. Policy Selection Process.
Sustainability 13 02785 g001
Table 1. Inclusion Criteria for Least Developed Country (LDC) Classification.
Table 1. Inclusion Criteria for Least Developed Country (LDC) Classification.
Inclusion Criteria 1Inclusion ThresholdMalawiTanzaniaZambia
Gross National Income (GNI) per capita$1025$331$902$1561
Human Assets Index60 or below52.55658.6
* HAI Indicator: Percentage of Population Undernourished 260 or below25.932.345.9
Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI)36 or above47.127.940.5
1: Criteria and data provided by United Nations Least Developed Country Profiles [43,44,45]. 2: Sub-inclusion of nutrition. *: HAI indicator is provided given research objectives.
Table 2. List of National Policy Documents.
Table 2. List of National Policy Documents.
National Policy DocumentReference CodeTime Frame
National Resilience Strategy [46]NRS2018–2030
Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III [47]MGDS III2017–2022
National Agriculture Policy [48]NAP2016–2020
Malawi National Irrigation Policy [49]NIP2016–NR
National Fisheries Policy [50]MW-NFP2012–2017
Malawi Agriculture Sector Wide Approach [51]ASWAp2011–2015
Tanzania Livestock Master Plan [52]LMP2018–2025
The Second National Five Year Development Plan [53]FYDP II2016–2021
National Fisheries Policy [54]TZ-NFP2016–NR
Agricultural Sector Development Strategy II [55]ASDS II2015–2025
Agricultural Sector Development Programme II [56]ASDP II2015–2030
Agriculture Climate Resilience Plan [57]ACRP2014–2019
Seventh National Development Plan [58]7NDP2017–2021
National Policy on Climate Change [59]NPCC2016–NR
Second National Agricultural Policy [60]SNAP2016–NR
Zambia’s Second National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan [61]NBSAP II2015–2025
National Agriculture Investment Plan [62]NAIP2014–2018
NR, not reported.
Table 3. Coding Tree for Objectives and Sub-Objectives Used in Content Analysis.
Table 3. Coding Tree for Objectives and Sub-Objectives Used in Content Analysis.
Objective 1: How is Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) defined in these countries and their respective policy documents?
  • How (if at all) is CSA defined and does this acknowledge nutrition?
  • Which practices and tools that fit within CSA are prioritized?
Objective 2: To what extent is nutrition included in these policy documents?
  • Is there acknowledgement of nutritional insecurity?
  • What objectives and measures are in place to combat nutritional insecurity?
  • Which of these measures are CSA related?
Objective 3: What actions are in place to improve the current policy environment?
  • Is the importance of cross-ministerial cohesion recognized?
  • What are the commonly cited challenges facing effective policy implementation?
  • What efforts are currently in place to tackle this effectively? (Are these related to nutrition and CSA?).
Table 4. Policy Document CSA Definitions.
Table 4. Policy Document CSA Definitions.
CountryIs CSA Explicitly Defined?CSA DefinitionPolicy Document
MalawiNoNo explicit definition but does seek to promote “climate-smart” agriculture and sustainable land and water management.MGDS III
TanzaniaYesFAO definition of CSA—“Agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, resilience (adaptation), reduces/removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) and enhances the achievement of national food security and development goals (reduces poverty)” (p. 48).ACRP
CSA is an interactive approach to address food security and climate change through:
Adapting and building resilience of agricultural and food and nutrition security systems to climate change at multiple levels.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (inc. crops, livestock’s and fisheries).
ZambiaNoNo explicit definition of CSA.
Promotes adoption of CSA technologies for different agro-ecological zones. NPCC
Integrating climate-smart technologies necessary to buffer against natural shocks (i.e., droughts, weakening seed and animal varieties). 7NDP
Table 5. Summary of Nutritional Security Related Objectives and Measures.
Table 5. Summary of Nutritional Security Related Objectives and Measures.
CountryPolicy DocumentNutritional Inclusion?CSA Related Objectives and Measures
MalawiNRSYESNo recognition of nutrition
(1) Promote technologies that reduce post-harvest loses
(2) Promote bio-fortification
(3) Promote diversified crop and livestock production
(4) Promote research into the use of propagation and conservation technologies of indigenous foods
(1) Promote production and utilization of diverse nutritious foods
(2) Promote bio-fortification of staple foods
(3) Promote universal food and nutrition education
(1) Enhance crop diversification and intensification
MW-NFPNO 1No recognition of nutrition
(1) Promote diversification of food production
TanzaniaLMPNONo recognition of nutrition
FYDP IINONo recognition of nutrition
TZ-NFPNO 2No recognition of nutrition
(1) Improve food quality, diversity and reduce prevalence of malnutrition
(2) Diversification of farming systems for improved diets
(1) Promote farm system diversification towards improved risk management and food and nutrition security
(2) Promote food fortification and blending techniques (including bio-fortification)
ACRPNONo recognition of nutrition
Zambia7NDPYESNo CSA related measures
NPCCNONo recognition of nutrition
(1) Promote diversification of agricultural production and utilization
(2) Promote access to bio-fortified seed or vines for the production of nutrient enhanced varieties
(3) Promote on-farm agro-processing
NBSAP IINONo recognition of nutrition
NAIPYES 3No CSA related measures
1: Policy notes importance of improving protein and micronutrient intake for Malawians but no strategies presented to improve food or nutrition security. 2: States objective “to develop a robust, competitive and efficient fisheries sector that contributes to food security and nutrition, growth of the national economy and improvement of the wellbeing of fisheries stakeholders while conserving environment” (p. 11) but no measures to promote this provided. 3: No plans or measures to fulfil nutritional security provided.
Table 6. Actions to Improve Policy Environment.
Table 6. Actions to Improve Policy Environment.
CountryPolicy DocumentActions To Improve Policy Environment
Prioritise collaborative learning to NRS
Develop incentives to encourage synergy and collaboration
Promote stakeholder collaboration
Strengthen inter-sectoral coordination
Enhance policy coherence (multi-sectoral approach)
Promote environmental education and information sharing amongst stakeholders
Strengthen cross-ministerial linkages to ensure sustained development
Promote stakeholder participation in policy implementation
Improve farmer knowledge access
Enhance stakeholder participation in irrigation management
Encourage private sector investment
Develop training programs to address capacity gaps
Promote coordination and collaboration between related sectors
Promote participation of local fishing communities
Promote knowledge sharing and communication amongst ministries
Harmonize related policies
Promote smallholder participation in decision making
Improve donor coordination
No improvement actions presented
Create enabling environment for all stakeholders to participate in desired economic and human development
Enhance coherence of policies and implementation
Strengthen capacity for participation in regional and international obligations
Enhance inter-ministerial collaboration to share knowledge and create mitigation and adaption measures
Develop mechanisms for collaboration across all ASDP II stakeholders
Streamline policies across sectors to promote policy coherence
No improvement actions presented
Create platforms to promote all stakeholder participation
Strengthen synergies between various related institutions
Promote inter-sectoral linkages and synergies with national level indicators
Promote multi-sectoral development approach to sustainable development
Promote mainstreaming of climate change policies and plans at all levels
Promote collaboration and participation of all stakeholders for effective implementation
Promote incentives to develop and transfer climate-related technologies and knowledge
Promote stakeholder participation of knowledge and technology transfers
Strengthen stakeholder coordination
Harmonize public and private extension systems
Promote effective knowledge sharing on conservation
Create enabling environments for establishment of community fishery areas
Encourage all stakeholder participation
Promote stakeholder participation and coordination to enhance effective NAIP implementation
Promote synergies with other government ministries
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Beattie, S.; Sallu, S.M. How Does Nutrition Feature in Climate-Smart Agricultural Policy in Southern Africa? A Systematic Policy Review. Sustainability 2021, 13, 2785.

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Beattie, Shaun, and Susannah M. Sallu. 2021. "How Does Nutrition Feature in Climate-Smart Agricultural Policy in Southern Africa? A Systematic Policy Review" Sustainability 13, no. 5: 2785.

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