A student in Somalia receives a nutritious cooked meal

Identifying and Managing Climate Risk in Global Nutrition Interventions

By Christine Chumbler, Elaine Gray

Nutrition and food security are vulnerable to the effects of temperature, rainfall, drought, flooding and other forms of extreme weather. Environmental and climate conditions—such as seasonality and rainfall patterns—are crucial considerations to encourage sustainability of nutrition and food security interventions and the accurate interpretation of results when monitoring and evaluating activities.

The new global Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Project was one of the first activities to undergo USAID’s climate risk management (CRM) process. In fact, it was a “pilot” that helped to refine the Climate Risk Screening and Management tool and other resources before they were made publicly available. Through CRM, USAID assesses, addresses and adaptively manages climate risks that may affect USAID programming to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of investments. 

Program designers explicitly integrated climate risk considerations into the solicitation document that was developed and released under the project, which is based on the USAID Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy (2014-2025).  

“We encouraged offerors to integrate climate-smart strategies to build resilience and mitigate or address the impacts of climate risks that affect nutrition,” explains Katherine Owens, senior nutrition advisor in USAID’s Bureau for Food Security. Ideally, the resulting innovative practices and technologies will be helpful to expand the development, application and research of climate-smart approaches in all the disciplines that affect nutrition, including health, family planning, agriculture, water, sanitation, food safety and education. 

“Given the complex multi-sectoral nature of nutrition and USAID’s approach to nutrition programming, and that our project was designed for global activities without predetermined focus countries or geographies, our approach to the climate risk assessment was to cast a wide net to include a diverse range of risks and mitigation practices across relevant sectors,” says Elaine Gray, nutrition advisor in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health. The fact that the project represents efforts and investments from three USAID bureaus also contributed to its complexity. This meant the climate risk assessment was more extensive than typical, but it also means that it will inform programming in a number of countries. 

The team included nutrition, food security, health and climate experts. Liz Pleuss, public health advisor in the Bureau for Global Health, facilitated the group to apply this diverse expertise using the Climate Risk Screening and Management Tool. “Having Liz there with us to keep us on track and provide a lot of her own input was really helpful,” says Gray. 

Gray also stresses the importance of drawing on diverse experiences for the assessment. “In our process, we brought in more voices,” Gray says. “We wanted to make sure that no stone was left unturned.”

The resulting climate risk assessment highlighted the need to include strategies, interventions and assessments to build climate resilience both into program implementation and among beneficiaries in activity design. “We hope to use the assessment to guide our project management and assessment of our impact as implementation gets under way, and to further encourage a comprehensive approach to nutrition, food security, and to effective programming and monitoring and evaluation,” says Gray.

Overall, Owens says CRM was very worthwhile. “I found it very comprehensive and holistic,” she says. “I think that a lot of what we identified through CRM is very applicable to other projects too, not just nutrition.”

The goal of USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy, which the new nutrition project furthers, is to save lives, build resilience, increase economic productivity and advance development, with an emphasis on improving the nutrition of women and children in the 1,000-day window between pregnancy and the first two years of life

Strategic Objective
Climate Risk Management, Gender and Social Inclusion, Health, Resilience, WASH

Christine Chumbler

Christine Chumbler is a communications professional with more than 20 years experience in writing, editing, and publications design. She has expertise in every stage of publication production, from concept and writing to editing, design, and printing. In the mid-1990s, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi. This experience led to a career using her writing and editorial skills with international development and foreign policy organizations, many of which worked to directly support USAID’s efforts. She has worked in a freelance capacity full-time since May 2016. Chumbler has a Master’s in journalism from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor’s in environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Elaine Gray

Elaine Gray

Elaine Gray has worked in the Bureau for Global Health at USAID since 2013. As a nutrition advisor, her main responsibilities include coordinating and managing USAID's nutrition projects, and providing technical assistance to USAID missions in several countries, other USAID and USG departments, and implementing partners. Previously, Gray worked with the Clinton Foundation and Clinton Health Access Initiative in Boston, Togo, and India; the USAID-funded Nutrition Collaborative Research Program and Food Aid Quality Review at Tufts University; and the Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study at the Harvard University School of Public Health. Gray holds a BA in anthropology and French from the University of British Columbia, and an MS in food policy & applied nutrition, MPH in Global Health, and certificate in sustainable agriculture & food systems from Tufts University.

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