Helen Keller International (HKI)

Fellowship Number: 
Field Location: 
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Policy Location: 
Dakar, Senegal
General Scope of Work: 
Food-based approaches to improve nutrition
Description of Organization: 

Helen Keller International (HKI) is a private voluntary organization (PVO) founded in 1915.  Our mission is to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. We combat the causes and consequences of blindness and malnutrition by establishing programs based on evidence and research in vision, health and nutrition. HKI is a technical assistance agency with two major areas of expertise in nutrition (including micronutrient supplementation, food fortification, promotion of breastfeeding and complementary feeding, nutritional surveillance,   nutrition and infectious diseases and increasingly agriculture-based interventions) and eye health (including cataract surgery; control of trachoma and onchocerciasis; and refractive error). Headquartered in New York City, HKI has regional offices in Africa and Asia; a European affiliate (HKI-Europe), in Paris and program offices in 22 countries. For more information please go to http://www.hki.org/.

Project Description: 

Since 1988, HKI’s Homestead Food Production program has helped communities in Asia to establish technically-improved local food production systems by creating gardens yielding micronutrient-rich fruits and vegetables year-round (which were eventually complemented with poultry and small livestock production). The fruits and vegetables ensure the availability of vitamins and minerals essential for proper immune system function and full physical, intellectual and cognitive development, while eggs, poultry, milk and other animal foods support the body's ability to absorb and utilize the micronutrients. This approach also provides families with income from the sale of surplus goods, empowers women, and increases the technical knowledge and capacity of local partners in government and civil society. HKI is also actively promoting orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP), which is rich in pro-vitamin A.

The fellow will support HKI’s roll-out of Enhanced Homestead Food Production (EHPF)/OFSP with the goal of designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating broad scale EHFP/OFSP models in diverse country settings in Africa, building on existing program activity, and to undertake additional testing of the feasibility of the model in urban/peri-urban settings. Lessons learned from this initiative will provide the basis for replication of the EHFP/OFSP program models by HKI and other development agencies on a much broader scale in Africa.

Field Placement: 

Agriculture approaches to improving nutrition are a core priority of HKI’s programs. The expected outcome of the fellowship placement is in-depth analysis of the current HKI models for food-based approaches to improved household food security and nutrition, with a particular focus on delivering the EHFP/OFSP at scale in varied settings in sub-Saharan Africa. In supporting the EHFP/OFSP program, the fellow will contribute to the following activities and deliverables:

  • Support the analysis and documentation of an EHFP model based on a diversity of horticultural crops (including OFSP) and small animal husbandry by building on the experience of existing initiatives already on the ground in Burkina Faso.
  • Support the HKI Burkina Faso team to implement the EHFP/OFSP model through a network of local agricultural and health partners.
  • Develop a multi-channel behavior change communication strategy to support the wide-scale adoption of improved nutrition practices in entire districts and provinces where the project is active.
  • Document best practices for scale up of EHFP/OFSP for future use in advocacy during the policy year.
Policy Placement: 

Harnessing agriculture to optimize nutritional outcomes is one of HKI’s core priorities. The overarching purpose of this fellowship placement is to maximize learning across Africa and then accelerate mainstreaming and scaling-up of these programs in the sub-Saharan Africa context – both within HKI programs and within partner programs. Specific objectives and deliverables include:

  • In collaboration with the Regional, Country office, and Headquarters teams, support the documentation of EHFP/OFSP best practices in varied settings across Africa.
  • In collaboration with the Regional and Country office teams, support the program implementation and scale up of the EHFP/OFSP models to other HKI program settings.
  • In collaboration with Regional and Country office teams, support dissemination of EHFP/OFSP models to development partners, donors, and governments.
  • Provide input to and support the development and testing of an advocacy toolkit to promote understanding of and demand for EHFP/OFSP models among donors and partners.
  • With numerous international organizations having regional offices in Dakar, the fellow will benefit from the opportunity to represent HKI in numerous fora to communicate support and engender demand for the EFHP/OFSP models.
  • Finally, there will be opportunities for the fellow to support capacity building of HKI staff and field partners as part of efforts to roll out EHFP/OFSP.
Education/Experience Required: 
  • Course work (Masters level) and field experience relevant to program area with a very strong preference for expertise in agricultural extension in resource-poor environments.
  • Field experience in a developing country ideally in Africa.
  • Should have strong knowledge of issues related to links between agriculture and nutrition.
  • Should have demonstrated ability to write for varied audiences, including policy makers, funders, program implementers, general public.
  • Strong knowledge of Microsoft Office, internet-based research, and knowledge of appropriate operations research and evaluation design.
  • Excellent skills in written and spoken English and functional French.
  • Should have an ability to bridge front-line program work with national and regional policy and programming; should be a self-starter willing to take initiative; should be a strong team player able to work with a variety of partners from beneficiaries, front-line implementers, partner NGOs and government agencies, donor agencies and policy makers; should have willingness to participate in overall agency’s development of agriculture programs to improve nutrition.


  • Strong preference for an applicant with a background in agriculture/agricultural extension but backgrounds in nutrition, public health, gender and/or international studies may be considered.
  • Preferably has at least three years of experience working in a developing country.
  • Interest in policy and advocacy work.