Information technology approaches to agriculture and nutrition in the developing world: A systems theory analysis of the mNutrition program in Malawi

Food Security - Springer

Authors: Christopher D Huggins & Alvaro Valverde

International development programing is increasingly integrating agriculture and nutrition goals, while attempting to demonstrate 'impacts at scale' and value for money. These multiple goals create complexities, both from a conceptual viewpoint and a more operational perspective. This article uses systems theory to examine the mobile Nutrition program (mNutrition), which aims to improve nutrition, food security and livelihoods for rural women and children, through mobile phone-based information services. The paper specifically uses mNutrition's work in Malawi as a case study. The systems approach reveals that, as a complex system with numerous sub-components and tensions between different goals, the mNutrition program tended to minimize connections between its sub-systems (such as content development and mobile service development processes) in order to speed up movement towards the global planned outcomes. We argue that this is likely to have multiple impacts on outcomes, including on overall effectiveness and the relevance and sustainability of the mobile message content.