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New USAID Study Uses Mobile Phones To Improve Children’s Nutrition In Northern Ghana

Persistent rural poverty in Northern Ghana also affects families’ nutrition. In spite of Ghana’s tremendous recent advances against poverty overall, poor nutrition in the northern regions, particularly among young children, could limit further progress for rural families.

The Feed the Future Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation, and Networks (ALL-IN) program has just launched a three-year $449,833 research project led by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana that uses communications by cell phone to strengthen nutrition among young children in Northern Ghana.

This project, supported by USAID, is testing whether this approach reinforces a prominent USAID program focused on nutrition and resilience.

“Mobile phones can be a powerful tool to change behaviors that directly impact a family’s welfare,” said Robert Darko Osei, an associate professor at ISSER and the project’s lead principal investigator.

Messaging by Mobile Phone to Improve Family Nutrition

The USAID Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) project is an integrated project under the Feed the Future initiative that seeks to improve the livelihoods and nutritional status of vulnerable rural families. RING-I, implemented from 2012 to 2019, was designed to increase the consumption of diverse quality foods, improve nutrition and hygiene among women and children, and strengthen local networks of vulnerable households. RING-II, currently underway, promotes families’ wellbeing and resilience through improved farming practices.

This Feed the Future ALL-IN project is evaluating the impacts of the RING project on household nutrition and resilience to shocks in Northern Ghana and adds messages by cell phone to encourage and reinforce the project’s nutrition-based interventions.

The project is designed as a randomized controlled trial, which makes it possible to identify the true impacts of the interventions by comparing outcomes like food security and household income between households who received the interventions and households who did not.

The project includes about 1,800 households with children under two years old across 12 communities in Northern Ghana. Research partners include Image-AD, Northwestern University, and the USAID Resiliency in Northern Ghana Project (RING).

“While communication on its own may not improve nutrition and also reduce poverty, it could be a vital strategy in shifting household behaviors and spending,” said Osei.

Research to Support Development Policy in Northern Ghana

This Feed the Future ALL-IN evaluation of the USAID RING project and nutrition-related messaging by cell phones could lay the foundation for expanding Ghana’s development agenda focused on poverty and inequality in the northern regions. The research team is also testing the cost-effectiveness of using a mobile phone platform to speed up behavior change.

“This research team understands the context and culture in the region, are closely related to policymakers, and understand the intricacies of policy,” said David Ameyaw, co-director of Feed the Future ALL-IN and president and CEO of the International Centre for Evaluation and Development. “All of this is critical to ensuring that this project’s high-quality evidence has a positive impact on national policy.”

Feed the Future ALL-IN was established by USAID as a partnership between International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED), with offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Accra, Ghana, and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk & Resilience (MRR) based at the University of California, Davis.

Feed the Future ALL-IN funds researchers at African institutions to lead large-scale international research collaborations, leveraging their local knowledge, skills, and ideas to build actionable evidence for promoting resilience and inclusive agricultural growth.

Credit: USAID Resiliency


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