Mercy Corps

Fellowship Number: 
Field Location: 
Coban, Guatemala
Policy Location: 
Washington, DC
General Scope of Work: 
Monitoring and evaluation of mother and child nutrition programs
Description of Organization: 

Mercy Corps helps people in the world’s toughest places turn the crises of natural disaster, poverty and conflict into opportunities for progress. Mercy Corps uses its Vision for Change framework to accomplish its mission of secure, productive and just communities, working together with private and public sectors and civil society to establish peaceful change, participation and accountability. Our worldwide team of 3,700 professionals is improving the lives of 19 million people in 41 countries. In recognition that food security and nutritional sustenance is integral to the success of relief and development programming, Mercy Corps currently operates 48 programs focused on food security in more than 20 countries. These programs work with women and men to implement sustainable approaches to meeting their own food needs and improving food availability, access and utilization, as well as the ability to withstand shocks. 

Project Description: 

Food security is a fundamental objective of Mercy Corps’ programming in Guatemala, in recognition that this country suffers the 6th worst malnutrition in the world, with stunting rates among children under five exceeding 60 percent in many communities. In 2009, Mercy Corps began implementing the USAID/Food for Peace-funded Programa Comunitario Materno Infantil de Diversification Alimentaria (PROCOMIDA) (Community Mother and Child Food Security Program), which is piloting the Preventing Malnutrition in Children Under Two Approach (PM2A). The program was designed with a strong research component in order to establish the extent to which the PM2A model can significantly and sustainably reduce malnutrition rates. The fellow will work with PROCOMIDA during its fifth year of implementation, when the program will be in a position to analyze trends made apparent through research efforts and apply lessons learned within participating communities. During the policy year, the fellow will be placed within Mercy Corps’ Food, Health and Nutrition Technical Support Unit in Washington DC, where he/she will lead advocacy and capacity building efforts around maternal and child health and nutrition programming within the agency and beyond, building upon familiarity with the PM2A model. 

Field Placement: 

The Fellow will be stationed in the PROCOMIDA program site of Alta Verapaz. The program targets 50,000 families during its six-year implementation (July 2009 – June 2015), focusing on pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of two. Program interventions are focused on two levels: direct beneficiaries and NGO health service providers. Direct beneficiaries are attended through behavior change communication (BCC) sessions, where key messages are conveyed to interest groups (pregnant women, lactating mothers, mothers with children from 6 – 24 months, mothers with sick and/or malnourished children, and men). Partner NGO health service providers are strengthened in their technical capacities and receive financial support in order to improve beneficiary’s access to quality health services. All interventions are coordinated with the Ministry of Health (MOH) and focused to strengthen its provision of services. In addition to measuring the extent to which this package of activities is effective in reducing child malnutrition, PROCOMIDA has five research arms to determine the impact of different ration types. These research arms provide either reduced or no family ration, or provide lipid-based nutritional supplements (LNS) or sprinkles instead of the usual nutritional ration of corn-soy blend for mother and child. Research is conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), with funding from FHI-360’s Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (FANTA-3), in addition to Mercy Corps’ own monitoring and evaluation activities. Overall, PROCOMIDA is one of Mercy Corps’ most significant research projects worldwide.

The placement of a Leland Fellow offers another opportunity to capitalize on the learning generated by this PM2A program. During its years of field implementation, the program has generated a large amount of information which is being centralized in a Management Information System (MIS). This information will help Mercy Corps to learn lessons from the PROCOMIDA implementation which can be applied to new initiatives in food security throughout the world. The fellow will analyze existing data to identify trends, correlate program outcomes with interventions at both at beneficiary and partner NGO level, and determine success factors. In addition, the fellow will identify the need for additional data, design survey instruments and lead collection activities and analyze results. The fellow will be responsible for reporting lessons learned and best practices, and conduct at least one qualitative case study. As needed, the fellow may also design and implement BCC activities in response to opportunities for improving practices revealed by research.  

Policy Placement: 

During the policy year, the Leland Fellow will play a critical role in advancing the learning and advocacy from Mercy Corps’ research-oriented PM2A program. Within Mercy Corps itself, the fellow will provide representation on the PM2A approach, disseminating lessons learned at headquarters and creating learning materials (such as webinars) for field teams on methods for tackling nutrition during the first thousand days of life, as well as effective methods of measuring the outcomes of such activities. The fellow will play a central role in facilitating advocacy around the results of PROCOMIDA within the donor, academic and implementer communities in DC and at forums such as the International Food Aid and Development Conference. The fellow will coordinate such efforts with the Guatemala program team, building upon relationships formed during the field year.

While capacity building and advocacy around the PM2A program will form a central project of the policy year, the fellow will also be a full member of the Food, Health and Nutrition TSU and thus may take on other projects in coordination with other technical experts. In this, Mercy Corps will be following the precedent of several successful Leland Fellowships, which has allowed fellows to broaden their expertise in food security and gain a comprehensive understanding of the technical support role. The policy year may include a temporary field deployment to conduct an assessment, evaluation or case study. Fellows may also continue advocacy projects previously led by other Mercy Corps-assigned fellows, such as acting as a liaison to the Local/Regional Procurement (LRP) Learning Alliance, which explores effective alternates to traditional US food aid. 

Education/Experience Required: 
  • Spanish speaker
  • Masters in Public Health, Nutrition, Development or other appropriate field
  • At least one year field experience
  • Strong analytic and writing ability
  • Flexibility, cultural sensitivity, multi-tasker, team player


  • Experience in Central or South America
  • Experience with food security programming
  • Experience with STATA, SPSS and surveys, qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis, and behavior change communications