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Farm production diversity is associated with greater household dietary diversity in Malawi: Findings from nationally representative data

Publication Abstract

Jones, Andrew, Aditya Shrinivas, and Rachel Bezner-Kerr. 2014. "Farm production diversity is associated with greater household dietary diversity in Malawi: Findings from nationally representative data." Food Policy, 46: 1-12.

Farm production diversity has the potential to influence the diversity of household diets, an important nutrition outcome associated with the nutrient adequacy of diets and the nutritional status of individuals. Yet, little empirical research has assessed the relationship between farm diversity and diet diversity or the plausible causal mechanisms that may operate between these two constructs. This research examines cross-sectional data from the Malawi Third Integrated Household Survey (IHS3), a nationally representative sample of farming households in Malawi, implemented from March 2010–March 2011 as part of the World Bank Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA). These data were used to determine the relationship between farm production diversity and household dietary diversity, and to identify determinants of this relationship. Two indicators of dietary diversity, a modified Household Dietary Diversity Score (HDDS), and the Food Consumption Score (FCS), were calculated along with three indicators of farm production diversity including the Simpson's Index, a metric accounting for both species richness and evenness. In multiple regression analyses, adjusting standard errors for the complex survey design of the IHS3 and controlling for the effects of several covariates on household dietary diversity, farm production diversity was consistently positively associated with dietary diversity (P < 0.0001). The association of increased farm diversity as measured by a combined crop and livestock measure on dietary diversity was significantly greater in woman-headed households compared to those headed by men (HDDS: P = 0.008; FCS: P = 0.076). The positive association of farm diversity with dietary diversity was also greater in wealthier households (P < 0.05). Consumption of legumes, vegetables and fruits was especially strongly associated with greater farm diversity. More diverse production systems may contribute to more diverse household diets. However, this relationship is complex; it may be influenced by gender, wealth, control of household decisions, the relative market-orientation of a household's agricultural production, and the specific nature of farm diversity.

DOI:10.1016/j.foodpol.2014.02.001 (Full Text)

Country of focus: Malawi.

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