Women’s dietary adequacy

by Marian Amaka Odenigbo 

On 15 and 16 July 2014, FAO/USAID/FANTA organized a meeting on the global dietary diversity indicator for assessing the micronutrient adequacy of women’s diets in Washington DC, USA. IFAD was among the development agencies present at this meeting. Participants were challenged to reach a consensus on a global indicator for assessing women's dietary adequacy based on the Women’s Dietary Diversity Project (WDDP-II) draft report. The diets of resource-poor population are very monotonous, dominated by starchy staples which fail to meet micronutrients needs. Women of reproductive age are among the nutritionally vulnerable groups and their poor micronutrient intake  harm not only themselves, but also their children.

WDDP is designed to respond to the need for a simple global indicator of women’s diet quality with specific focus on micronutrient adequacy. WDDP uses existing datasets from women’s dietary intake in resource-poor settings. It analyses the relationship between dietary diversity and micronutrient adequacy and serves as a proxy for the micronutrient adequacy of women’s diets.

The first phase of WDDP-I resulted in  a candidate indicator of 9-food group which was adopted in several FAO-supported programmes. However, this 9-food group indicator was not adopted for use on a more global basis due to the preference to use a  dichotomous indicator. Dichotomous indicator relies on cut-offs for the choice of positive and negative options.  Based on this, FAO initiated the follow-on project (WDDP II) to address the need for a dichotomous women’s dietary diversity indicator. On completion of WDDPII, two candidate indicators were selected: (i) 9-food group (FGI-9R); and (ii) 10-food group (FGI-10R).
During the course of the two-day meeting,  participants engaged in extensive discussions on the uses, merits and limitations of each candidate indicator. As a result, the participants reach an agreement to adopt  dichotomous indicator with a cut off of ≥5 food groups. Finally, a consensus was reached with a unanimous vote for FGI-10R. In regards to operationalization and communication of the selected FGI-10R indicator, FAO will be issuing recommendations and guidelines.

IFAD is one of the potential future users of this indicator for tracking and assessing progress from agriculture interventions to dietary diversity. The FAO recommendations and guidelines on this indicator will support the operationalization of IFAD’s revised results and impact management system (RIMS) that is currently under development which includes measurement of dietary diversity. Assessing the progress in women's dietary adequacy is relevant in IFAD-supported operations for food and nutrition security because it  will enhance IFAD’s commitment to women's empowerment and particularly the nutrition contribution to smallholder female farmers in the resource-poor settings.

Read more: Interested in finding out more on this topic, please consult Dietary Diversity as a Measure of the Micronutrient Adequacy of Women’s Diets in Resource-Poor Areas