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Article Index

Philosophy and principles

To develop nutrition-sensitive extension messages and disseminate them effectively, EAS should take account of the following principles. 

  • Context: nutrition-sensitive messages should build on analyses of dietary patterns and deficits of rural households. The household dietary diversity score of FAO (1)
    The household dietary diversity score and individual dietary diversity score provide indications of a household’s or individual’s consumption of a range of food groups, and can be used to understand access to food and the nutritional quality of diets.
    and national food-based dietary guidelines, if available, are helpful to identify nutrition gaps. 
  • Adaptation to literacy levels: where smallholders’ literacy levels are low, visual tools, interactive methods, and simple language should be used to enhance the understanding of extension messages. 
  • Balanced/equitable participation: women play a major role in channelling household resources to food, health services, and education. However, women are subject to the influence and decision-making authority of other family members such as male partners and the elderly. Nutrition-sensitive extension should engage both men and women, as well as household members across generations (youth and elderly), fostering more harmonious intra-household communication and decision making, and more equitable power relations. 
  • Business orientation: smallholders are entrepreneurs and invest in production based on profit outlooks. Cost– benefit analysis should be used to enable smallholders to make well grounded decisions on their investments in production and consumption while taking the nutritional implications into account. 
  • Scale: the content of nutrition-related extension messages should be relevant for a large number of households. The methods of delivery need to be easy and low-cost, otherwise resource constraints will limit the outreach. Keep it simple, and focus on do-able actions. 
  • Coordination: to enhance impact, coordination with government or donor programmes that address nutrition, such as health systems, maternal care, and water supply, will be necessary. 


Extension advisory services can support smallholders to improve their nutrition through a set of three interventions: nutrition education, diversification of production, and off-farm income generation for women. The integration of this set of measures aims to address the determinants of food security outlined in the UNICEF framework as access to food, availability, and utilisation. The UNICEF framework highlights additional determinants of food security: food assimilation, care, and stability. Extension advisory services alone have a limited mandate to intervene on these additional determinants. It is therefore advisable to seek collaboration with other initiatives or institutions.