Programmes and projects

Over the years, LCIRAH members have worked together to develop and implement over 30 externally-funded interdisciplinary research projects in agriculture, nutrition and health.

Here we introduce some of LCIRAH’s current research activities. Our programmes are large, long-running, multi-partner activities which include a range of components. Projects are shorter-term investigations addressing specific research questions. If you are interested in learning more, please follow the links provided.

Current programmes

The aim of the CGIAR’s research program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) is to maximize the health and nutrition benefits of agricultural development, and to reduce the associated health risks. One of the five ‘Flagship Programs’ of A4NH is run jointly by LSHTM and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILR), and is called “Improving Human Health” (IHH). It is concerned with the side-effects of agriculture on infectious disease, especially:
  • The effects of agricultural landscapes, and environmental change driven by agriculture, on vector-borne disease
  • The effects of agriculture on zoonotic disease risks
  • Interactions between human- and agricultural interventions, especially resistance to antibiotics.
Many vector-borne diseases are affected by agricultural landscapes, and one of the most important examples, in terms of burden of morbidity and mortality, is rice and malaria in Africa. Mosquitoes breed in ricefields everywhere, but this is a particular problem in Africa because the main ricefield-breeding mosquito species is Anopheles gambiae, which is the main African malaria-vector and the most efficient vector in the world. Website in development. For more information please contact the PI Jo Lines (jo.lines@lshtm.ac.uk).

Cross-university, interdisciplinary food systems training to improve food security and environmental outcomes.

IFSTAL is a HEFCE-funded interactive educational programme designed to improve knowledge and understanding of the food system. It brings together expertise and experience of faculty and students from seven higher education partners, namely Oxford University (lead), Reading University, Warwick University, Royal Veterinary College, London City University, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and School of Oriental and African Studies.

IFSTAL addresses the urgent lack of a workforce skilled in food systems thinking. It adopts a range of teaching methods and a virtual learning environment to link students with the complementary skills of the collaborating institutions. In addition, a comprehensive research placement and internship programme is being developed, strengthening links with potential employers and improving workplace skills.

Through IFSTAL, students will be equipped with the knowledge, skills and opportunities needed for them to be more effective in the workplace. This will allow them to address the systemic failings in food systems which have resulted in the current challenges we’re facing, such as one billion people being hungry, two billion lacking sufficient nutrients, and over two billion overweight or obese, as well as strain and damage to the ecosystem.

LCIRAH is an IFSTAL consortium partner and has a strong commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and training using various formats (e.g. online courses, seminars, workshops, etc.). For more information please visit the website, or contact Louise Whatford, IFSTAL Education Coordinator (lwhatford@rvc.ac.uk).

Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions (IMMANA) is a research initiative led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in partnership with Tufts University and School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

Phase 1 of IMMANA – funded by UK Aid from the UK Government ran from 2015 to 2019, with impressive interdisciplinary impact. Following this, an expanded and enhanced £13.6M Phase 2 is now under way (2019-2024), co-funded by UK Aid and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

IMMANA’s objectives are to:

  1. Stimulate the development of innovative methodological approaches and novel metrics in agriculture and food systems for improved health and nutrition;
  2. Build a cadre of early-career researchers skilled in developing and applying cutting-edge methods and metrics;
  3. Facilitate learning, sharing and new interdisciplinary research collaborations;
  4. Develop scientific evidence to inform policies and investments in agriculture and food systems for improved nutrition and health.

To achieve these objectives three inter-locking and synergistic programme workstreams have been established:

  1. Competitive Research Grants directed at accelerating the development of new and innovative interdisciplinary metrics and methods, filling the key knowledge gaps including theory-driven impact evaluation;
  2. Research Fellowships for Early Career Scientists directed at building a cadre of early career researchers who are using and developing/adapting new methodological approaches with mentors in ongoing research programmes in LMICs; and
  3. The Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy – a global network of researchers, practitioners and policymakers working at the intersections of agriculture-food systems, nutrition and health. The ANH Academy convenes this community through an annual Academy Week conference, online and face to face training; as well as through promoting interdisciplinary dialogue and institutional linkages by facilitating collaborative work under relevant thematic areas.

Under Phase 1 the ANH Academy provided world-class learning labs, constituted expert technical working groups and created platforms for researchers of all levels to share cutting-edge evidence. Phase 2 builds on these activities with the establishment of a new synthesis centre to facilitate systematic reviews, synthesise tools, methods, metrics and data, as well as a comprehensive programme to strengthen the capacity of researchers to undertake ground-breaking work linking agriculture, nutrition and health. Underpinning these initiatives is a research uptake and communications platform that ensures rapid sharing, development and use of the best tools and approaches emerging from IMMANA Grants, Fellowships and the wider world of research and practice.

For more information please contact Ore Kolade (ore.kolade@lshtm.ac.uk).

Population Health Innovation Lab (PHI|Lab) is based at the Faculty of Public Health and Policy at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

The lab, co-led by an LCIRAH member (Laura Cornelsen) brings together researchers from a range of backgrounds, including epidemiology, economics, sociology and geography to understand system drivers of population health.

PHI|Lab particular focus and expertise are in the areas of diet and physical activity and its researchers test and evaluate policies and interventions that have the potential to improve health at the population level. Specific themes of interest include urban systems and complexity theory, the impact of food systems on food purchases, nutrition and health, evaluation of obesity-related public health interventions and the impact of the neighbourhood environment on health.

The methodological expertise in PHI|Lab ranges from ethnographic methods to spatial analysis and econometrics. Many of its researchers use large datasets and apply longitudinal analysis. While the primary focus of the research is in the UK, its members collaborate on projects undertaken also in a broader range countries. PHI|Lab researchers are funded by the NIHR, the UK MRC and Wellcome Trust, amongst others.

For more information please visit http://philab.lshtm.ac.uk/projects/

The Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS) programme examines the relationship between the environment, the food system and health and involves a multi-disciplinary team of researchers in three countries.

The overarching aim of the SHEFS programme is to provide policy makers with novel, interdisciplinary evidence to define future food systems policies that deliver nutritious and healthy foods in an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable manner.

SHEFS works in South Africa, India and the UK, and includes 10 partner organisations

  • London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • University College London
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • Centre for Chronic Disease Control
  • SOAS, University of London
  • Royal Veterinary College
  • University of Aberdeen;
  • City, University of London
  • Ashoka Trust for Environment and Ecology
  • The Food Foundation

Awarded in April 2017 the programme continues to March 2021 and in addition to the focus on the three countries there are key research themes focusing on Agriculture, Diets, Environment, Health, Livestock, Economics, Policy and Evidence Synthesis.  SHEFS is funded by the Wellcome Trust’s Our Planet, Our Health Programme.

For more information please visit: https://shefsglobal.lshtm.ac.uk/

The ‘UKRI GCRF Action against Stunting Hub’ is an interdisciplinary team comprising researchers from 18 institutions including London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Royal Veterinary College, and SOAS University of London.

Running for a five-year period from March 2019 – March 2024, the Hub aims to transform current research on child undernutrition or stunting. The team proposes to change the focus of investigation of child undernutrition from individual components of the problem to the ‘whole child’.

Through this, we aim to understand the biological, social, environmental and behavioural context in which stunting occurs. Using this holistic approach, the Hub will undertake a range of child-focused interventions to prevent, improve and even reverse some key features of stunting and aims to reduce child stunting by up to 10% across communities in India, Indonesia and Senegal.

The Hub was initiated from initiated from an interdisciplinary group supported by BBSRC at the ANH Academy Week, which took place in Nepal in 2017 and is funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which is a key component in delivering the UK AID strategy.

Website in preparation.

The UKRI GCRF One Heath Poultry Hub, funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), is an interdisciplinary research project addressing the need to meet rising demand for poultry meat and eggs in developing countries, while minimising risk to international public health.

Population growth is driving continually increasing demand for poultry meat and egg production. However, rapid intensification creates conditions for diseases to emerge and spill over to people (‘zoonoses’). These include bacterial food poisoning and strains of avian influenza with epidemic or pandemic potential. Increased antimicrobial resistance due to misuse of antibiotics in poultry farming is also a major global threat.

The need for safe, sustainable poultry production is most urgent in South and Southeast Asia and the One Health Poultry Hub is working in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. It is led by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), London (PI is Fiona Tomley) and comprises 27 partner organisations in Asia, Australia, Europe and the UK.

The Hub brings teams of laboratory, clinical, veterinary and social scientists together to take a ‘One Health’ approach to the challenge of providing safe, secure food. It is investigating how and why intensification of poultry production increases risk of infectious disease, with the aim of identifying high-risk behaviours, process and environments. It plans to test and evaluate novel interventions for disease control.

Website in preparation.

Current projects

The transition to industrial intensification of aquaculture systems in LMICs may drive extensive and indiscriminate antibiotic use (ABU) to treat disease and increase productivity. Further, regulation and enforcement for responsible use are often inefficient and surveillance or monitoring of ABU is lacking or absent. Consequently, the role that ABU in aquaculture may play in the emergence of antibiotic resistance (ABR) is not understood.

The AMFORA project brings together an interdisciplinary, international consortium aiming to develop a smart approach to investigate human exposure to antibiotic resistance (ABR) through aquaculture. We have worked with stakeholders to map selected aquaculture systems in Vietnam, Bangladesh and Egypt and to identify hotspots in these systems.

We used a group model building approach and will apply systems dynamic modelling to enable participants to understand how systems operate, and formulate scenarios, thus increasing the uptake and success of interventions. We plan to identify and characterise critical risk pathways for exposure of humans to ABR by collecting data through interviews with key actors within the system and through microbiological sampling of hotspots for human exposure to ABR genes. In doing so, we aim to understand the consequences of ABU within these systems, and how this relates to the emergence of ABR and resulting public health impacts with the view to elaborate recommendations for mitigation.

This is an RVC-led project in collaboration with University of Stirling, LSHTM, International Livestock Research Institute, WorldFish, Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Bangladesh, Research Institute for Aquaculture No.1, Viet Nam and Kafrelsheikh University, Egypt.

AMFORA has been funded by an AMR Global Development Award from the UK Medical Research Council.

For more information please visit https://amr.cgiar.org/case-study/amfora-applying-one-health-systems-modelling-approach-formulate-strategies-mitigating

The project aims at co-designing and piloting an intervention that generates an antibiotic (AB) stewardship programme to promote responsible use of ABs in West Bengal, India.

This project will engage closely with diverse stakeholders, using a ‘One Health’ approach. The study will explore drivers of antibiotic usage in animals and humans, and their crossover.

For this, we will focus in households with backyard livestock keeping and small livestock commercial holdings. We will also map the pharmaceutical value chains of antibiotics to these households, conduct a stakeholder analysis, map community platforms for behavioural communication and conduct a secondary data review of local AMR prevalence.

This will be followed by an intervention development phase where we will work with key stakeholders using a participatory methodology for democratic decision-making. The intervention options that arise from this process will be further developed and piloted with a small group of providers.

The project is funded by the Medical Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, UK Department for International Development and Wellcome Trust with researchers from RVC, LSHTM, and the Institute of Development Studies in the UK and the Liver Foundation, West Bengal, and the West Bengal University of Animal & Fishery Science.

For more information please visit https://www.rvc.ac.uk/research/news/general/antibiotic-stewardship

This study aims at generating the basic knowledge on the current level of the reproduction performance indicators for different sheep and goat herds, which could then be used as a reference to identify those pastoralists more at risk of losing their animals and those better performing.

This will be done through scanning of the available literature, interview with key experts and interviews with pastoralists. We will test if climate change factors (such as large mobility of animals, poor access to water or fresh pastures or conflicts), socio-economic factors, type of advice channels used by pastoralists, presence of infections or existing innovations have the capacity to influence the level of these reproduction indicators.

We will test for six major diseases that affect sheep and goats’ reproduction capacity, but that can also infect and cause illnesses in humans. Economic models will be developed to assess the gain or losses of being an efficient or a poor performer, and determine the economic efficiency of strategies that can be used to improve performance.

The results of the study will therefore generate a baseline knowledge to indicate possible areas of interventions or research that could help pastoralists to improve the reproduction capacity of their sheep or goats. The project is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Kenya National Research Fund and represents a multi-disciplinary collaboration between researchers and students of the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom.

For more information please visit https://www.rvc.ac.uk/research/news/general/assessment-and-economic-evaluation-of-small-ruminant-reproduction-efficiency-challenges-and-mitigation-strategies-in-kajiado-kenya-study

There has been a resurgence of interest in agricultural input subsidy (AIS) programmes to boost agricultural productivity and food security. However there is considerable debate regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of AIS investments, including their impact on nutrition.

AIS are almost always applied to production of staple crops and aim to increase their productivity and smallholder incomes, usually also with nutrition objectives. However, the overall impact on nutrition is unclear, not least because staples tend to be calorie-dense but low in other nutrients.

AIS targeting maize, for example, may lead to increased concentration of production and consumption of maize and could reduce the intake of nutrient-rich foods. Alternatively, if the maize prices fall in real terms, this may enable consumers to purchase other goods including other food items.

There is little evidence to determine the direction of impact. The aim of this research is to examine the impact of Malawi’s AIS programme targeting mostly maize on overall food choices, by examining not just price and consumption of maize but crucially the effects of the AIS programme on consumption of other foods.

It will also explore the wider context of food preferences and trade-offs, including by gender and socio-economic status. This project is led by LSHTM in collaboration with SOAS and the University of Malawi and is funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

For more information please visit https://www.driversoffoodchoice.org/research/project-descriptions/agricultural-input-subsidies/

The project “Drivers of demand for animal-source foods in low-income informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya” steamed from a collaborative interdisciplinary seed project within LCIRAH, led by RVC, with LSHTM and ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) and looking at the role of livestock value chains in leveraging nutrition in the informal settlements of Nairobi.

In this follow up project, we combine nutritionists, economists and social researchers from LSHTM, UCL, ILRI and University of Nairobi, to look in depth at multiple determinants of animal-source foods. In this opportunity, with funding from the UK Department for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation we look at supply and demand side factors, with particular focus in aspects such as bargaining power, intra-household allocation, product availability or price elasticity, and its relation with nutrition outcomes.

We use mixed methods, grounded on the Food Environment framework by the ANH Academy Working Group, conducting a household and a retailer survey as well as focus group discussions and key informant interviews.

For more information please visit https://www.driversoffoodchoice.org/research/project-descriptions/animal-source-foods-nairobi/

Climate change challenges the ability of food systems in Africa to produce sufficient and healthy foods for growing populations. Environmental challenges are predicted to become more profound and adaptation strategies are needed to improve African food system resilience and prevent potential food insecurity and associated adverse health outcomes.

Using fully participatory approaches, this project will synthesise evidence and develop novel methods and tools for assessing the health effects of food system adaptations to climate change in Africa. The initial project will use The Gambia as a case study: a country highly dependent on small-scale agriculture that is experiencing increasing environmental pressures, including reduced rainfall and rising temperatures.

We will draw together secondary data across environment, food system and health domains to: 1) synthesise evidence on the effectiveness of food system adaptations in the West-African region and quantify the ability of The Gambia’s food system to deliver healthy diets; 2) develop methods to model food systems and health indicators under a business-as-usual scenario; and 3) model and evaluate tested food system adaptation scenarios for The Gambia.

The project will define a novel approach to delivering country-specific policy-relevant evidence on the effectiveness of realistic food system adaptations to deliver healthy and sustainable diets for all.

For more information please contact Rosie Green (rosemary.green@lshtm.ac.uk)

Based at the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, the Food Research Collaboration brings together academics across disciplines and Civil Society Organisations across sectors to produce, share and use the evidence-based knowledge that must underpin coherent policies for a more sustainable food system.

One strand of this work concerns Brexit and its likely impacts on food provision in the UK. Although food was not much discussed in the run-up to the 2016 referendum, it quickly became apparent that economically, socially, environmentally and in regulatory terms, the food system would be one of the areas most affected by Brexit.

With contributions from academics and civil society groups, the FRC has published Briefings on food standards, sugar, fisheries, food security, animal welfare, the Northern Ireland border question, Local Authority preparedness for Brexit, and more. These Briefings have reached a wide audience and have contributed facts and clarity to a muddy arena of public debate.

A no-deal Brexit, or even a careless one, would cause immediate and serious disruption for food consumers and producers in the UK, and all the livelihoods that lie between them. Our members, whether academics contributing analysis or Civil Society groups using information for advocacy, attempt to highlight the pitfalls and opportunities Brexit presents. The Food research collaboration is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

For more information please visit https://foodresearch.org.uk/food-brexit-briefings/

Twitter @foodresearchuk

The GeoNutrition project takes a geographical approach to understanding micronutrient deficiencies (MNDs) in Ethiopia and Malawi, looking at how physical factors (soil type, proximity to lakes, etc.) and socioeconomic factors (household wealth, urbanization, gender dynamics, etc.) affect the supply of micronutrients in food systems.

The project will also assess agricultural approaches to addressing MNDs including ‘agronomic biofortification’ of staple cereal crops, which means enriching crops with micronutrient fertilizers. Together with our academic partners in Ethiopia, Malawi and the UK, LSHTM is leading the Addressing Hidden Hunger with Agronomy (AHHA) trial which is a pragmatic, community-based trial to test the efficacy of alleviating zinc and selenium deficiencies through consumption of teff (Ethiopia) and maize (Malawi) flour enriched through agronomic biofortification.

The GeoNutrition team brings together partners from multiple disciplines, spanning soil and crop sciences, agriculture, human nutrition, geography, economics, and ethics.

Project partners include the University of Nottingham, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Addis Ababa University, the Ethiopian Public Health Institute, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, College of Medicine of the University of Malawi, the Malawi Ministry of Health, Rothamsted Research, CIMMYT, ICRISAT, ICRAF and the British Geological Survey.

GeoNutrition is funded from May 2017-June 2021 through grants from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

For more information please visit www.geonutrition.com

Twitter @geo_nutrition

Low fruit and vegetable consumption contributes to substantial global morbidity/mortality. This is particularly so in India where 75% of the population do not meet World Health Organization consumption targets, with statistics worse for rural India.

People’s food choices are shaped by their food environments – the food sources/products available in their lives. Food price is a key barrier to healthy diets. Financial incentives may have an important role to play.

However, little research exists on food environments and effects of financial incentives on food choice in low-and-middle-income countries. For rural India such evidence is non-existent. Incentive schemes depending solely on government support are unlikely to be sustainable, but private-sector resources in emerging economies suggest public-private-partnership opportunities.

We identified a successful South African scheme offering rebates for healthy food purchased at partnered retailers, which requires adaptation to the rural Indian context.

We will examine whether incentivizing fruit and vegetable consumption can improve food choice in urbanizing India by developing a financial incentives scheme for rural India based on the South African model, and evaluating its feasibility as a prelude to a longer-term trial including clinical outcomes.

Care will be taken to ensure the scheme developed encourages women’s control of household resources. This project is led by LSHTM in collaboration with the National Institute of Nutrition of Indian Council of Medical Research; Public Health Foundation of India; Duke – National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School; Indian School of Business; St. John’s Research Institute, India.

The project is funded by the UK Department for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

For more information please visit https://www.driversoffoodchoice.org/research/project-descriptions/incentivizing-fruit-and-vegetable-consumption/

Intakes of fruits, vegetables, and meat in South Asia and Africa are very low, despite their importance in the nutrition of local populations.

Important obstacles to their consumption include high prices and seasonal unavailability that are fuelled in part by poor infrastructure, fragmented value chains, and limited policy incentives resulting in low supply response from farmers.

The LOOP intervention of the Indian Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) Digital Green provides an aggregation service that collects, transports and markets fruit and vegetable production from farmers across Bihar, India and Bangladesh.

MINI is a two-year project funded by the Gates Foundation and UKAid exploring how the nutrition sensitivity of this promising intervention can be improved and scaled up. The overall aim is to contribute to improving fruit and vegetable availability and affordability in markets relevant to nutritionally vulnerable segments of the population.

MINI is collecting a range of qualitative and quantitative data from the value chains to underpin participatory System Dynamics models of local markets. The models will enable simulation of ‘what-if’ scenarios to explore nutrition-relevant outcomes. MINI is led by SOAS University of London and partners include Digital Green, Bangladesh Agricultural University, ILRI, LSHTM and Lincoln University.

For more information please visit https://anh-academy.org/market-intervention-nutritional-improvement-mini-using-microsimulation-methods-assess-potential

Demand for rice is growing rapidly in Africa, and ministries of agriculture are actively promoting the expansion of irrigated-rice cultivation. Meanwhile, Ministries of Health are planning for the elimination of malaria.

These are both desirable development goals, but there is a serious risk that one might interfere with the other, because rice fields are a major breeding ground for the mosquitoes that transmit malaria in Africa. It is perfectly possible to grow rice without producing mosquitoes, if you mange water according to that objective, and going forward, achieving this while maintaining rice yields should be an objective.

This project focuses on an additional challenge for future rice production. Irrigated rice is a major producer of greenhouse gases, particularly methane. A solution to this is a technique called Alternate Wet and Dry (AWD) irrigation. It involves intermittent drying of ricefields, a methods similar to that which would be used to control mosquito breeding.

In this project we will explore at sites in West and East Africa, the potential to modify rice production to produce these substantial health and climate change co-benefits. Our African partners include AfricaRice in Cote D’Ivoire and the International Rice Research Institute in Kenya. This three-year project is funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of their Climate Change and Health Awards scheme.

For more information please contact Jo Lines (jo.lines@lshtm.ac.uk)

This study is a four arm, cluster randomized controlled trial to assess the impact and cost-effectiveness of three variants of an innovative agricultural intervention to improve agricultural and nutrition outcomes:

  1. An agriculture extension intervention of women’s group viewing and discussing low-cost participatory videos on nutrition-sensitive agricultural practices (NSA), and home visits to follow up on adoption of new practices shown in the videos.
  2. Women’s groups viewing and discussing videos on NSA and nutrition-specific behaviour change.
  3. Women’s groups viewing and discussing videos on NSA and nutrition-specific behaviour change combined with a ‘participatory learning and action’ approach, with home visits.

There are four  aims of the study:

  1. To evaluate the impact of the interventions, compared to the control, on children’s dietary diversity and maternal BMI (mothers of children under two years of age) as primary outcomes and maternal dietary diversity and wasting.(weight-for-height<2SD) among children under two years of age as secondary outcomes.
  2. To evaluate the impact of the interventions on agriculture-related practices and outcomes, including production diversity, overall yields, yields of nutrient rich foods and household income.
  3. To assess the pathways through which the interventions may improve nutrition outcomes, including through improved agricultural production, household income and expenditure, and women’s empowerment.
  4. To estimate the cost-effectiveness of the three interventions.

UPAVAN is led by LSHTM in collaboration with VARRAT, Ekjut, Digital Green, Development Corner (D-COR), JSI-SPRING, UCL Institute for Global Health and is funded by DFID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

For more information please visit https://trialsjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13063-018-2521-y