In 2022, Ethiopia launched its first-ever food-based dietary guidelines, which have been identified as a “game-changing solution” to achieve the country’s food systems transformation agenda and its Food and Nutrition Strategy 2030. Building on the legacy of past CGIAR research and collaboration in the country, researchers from the CGIAR Initiative on Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation contributed technical guidance to the development of the guidelines.
In 2022, Ethiopia achieved a major milestone in its path towards food systems transformation by launching its first-ever food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs). The country is striving to end undernutrition and prevent the rising burden of overweight/obesity and noncommunicable diseases, but maintaining a healthy diet remains a challenge for many households. As Ethiopia’s food systems undergo major transformations driven by rapid population growth and urbanization, rising incomes, the development of agro-processing, and climate change, decision-makers aim to shape this transition in ways that increase food availability and choice, promote equitable incomes, and support the adoption of healthy diets.
The country’s vision for its food system was developed through an extensive multisectoral, multistakeholder process. Both the CGIAR Initiative on Sustainable Healthy Diets through Food Systems Transformation and its predecessor, A4NH, have played a major role in supporting the country’s adoption of a food systems approach.
“Developing Ethiopia’s food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) is a step in the right direction. They can create demand for healthy foods, and the food system value chain will likely change once the FBDGs are fully adopted. The FBDGs are a potential game changer, but this is still an unfinished agenda.” – Dr. Kaleab Baye, Associate Professor, Addis Ababa University Center for Food Science and Nutrition.
In 2018, CGIAR researchers published a comprehensive analysis of Ethiopia’s food system, which was widely adopted by national partners and used to inform the food systems research agenda . After Ethiopia’s National Nutrition Programme (2016–2020) highlighted the importance of country-specific FBDGs, the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) began coordinating the development of the guidelines. EPHI received financial and technical support from the International Food Policy Research Institute through A4NH, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and Wageningen University and Research.
In March 2022, Ethiopia launched its FBDGs, publishing the guidelines as both technical recommendations  and general messages for broader use . The FBDGs were the result of an extensive consultative process with national food and nutrition implementing sectors, international nutrition development and research partners, civil society organizations, and religious institutions.
As part of a multidisciplinary committee, researchers from A4NH and Sustainable Healthy Diets contributed technical guidance to this process. The committee established a methodological framework, generated evidence to inform the guidelines, and identified multiple diet-related public health concerns. This work led to the development of key evidence-based dietary recommendations and a healthy eating index for measuring adherence to the FBDGs .
Ethiopia’s guidelines aim to provide dietary recommendations that improve diet quality, including diversity and food safety, to support optimal health. The country struggles with very low dietary diversity, which is largely driven by the lack of availability and access to a diverse food basket. In recognition of these challenges, the FBDGs also advocate for broad food system initiatives that support a healthy diet while taking sustainability and affordability into consideration.
The government’s Ethiopian Food System Transformation Pathway (EFSTP) process, which laid out the country’s vision for national food systems transformation following the 2021 UNFSS process, underscored the importance of the FBDGs. The EFSTP called the guidelines a “game-changing solution” to achieve both intermediate and long-term outcomes for the country’s food systems transformation agenda and its Food and Nutrition Strategy 2030 .
Through this work, researchers in Sustainable Healthy Diets are building on A4NH’s legacy of strong research and partnerships in Ethiopia and laying the foundation for future collaboration that will help achieve the country’s agenda for food systems transformation.
1 Gebru, M., R. Remans, I. Brouwer, K. Baye, M. Biset Melesse, N. Covic, F. Habtamu, A. Hadera Abay, T. Hailu, K. Hirvonen, T. Kassaye, et al. 2018. Food Systems for Healthier Diets in Ethiopia: Toward a Research Agenda. IFPRI Discussion Paper 01720. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
2 Federal Government of Ethiopia, Ministry of Health, Ethiopian Public Health Institute. 2022. Ethiopia: Food-Based Dietary Guidelines. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
3 Ethiopian Public Health Institute. 2022. Ethiopia: Food-Based Dietary Guidelines Booklet. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
4 Bekele, T.H. 2022. “Ethiopian Food-Based Dietary Guidelines: Development, Evaluation, and Adherence Monitoring.” PhD thesis, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands.
5 Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. 2021. Vision 2030: Transforming Ethiopian Food Systems. A Synthesis Report: Game Changing Solutions to Transform Ethiopia’s Food System. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Header Image: Cover photo of the Ethiopian Food-Based Dietary Guidelines booklet. Graphic designed by Yitagessu Mergia.