Elucidating pathways from agrobiodiversity to dietary diversity in Peru and Vietnam
Diversified farming systems hold great potential to sustainably enhance the productivity and profitability of smallholder farms in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), in part, because of the large variety of ecosystem services supported by these systems, their positive impacts on resource use efficiency and pest regulation, and their capacity as reservoirs of biodiversity. Despite the substantive research base that has examined the ecological and agronomic benefits of these systems though, very little attention has been paid to the potential linkages between agrobiodiversity and human health. Conceptually, more diverse farming systems can directly contribute to more diverse diets, which in turn are linked to a broad range of beneficial health outcomes. However, the assumptions underlying this linkage between agrobiodiversity and dietary diversity are increasingly tenuous. Farmers, even smallholders in LMICs, are increasingly shifting away from subsistence farming, and instead raising crops for local and regional markets, while the emergent ?nutrition transition?, and broader transformation of food systems in LMICs have meant that agricultural products are increasingly being consumed not as whole foods, but as ingredients in highly processed foods.
Therefore, *there is a critical knowledge gap* in understanding the extent to which agrobiodiversity may affect dietary diversity and health outcomes in LMICs, the pathways via which these linkages may operate, and the role of context in modifying these linkages. We propose to examine the relationships between agrobiodiversity and dietary diversity among a diverse selection of farming households in distinct agroecological regions of Peru and Vietnam. The *key goals of our proposed project* are to: 1) characterize the inter- and intra-species agrobiodiversity of a range of subsistence and market-oriented farms; 2) determine associations between agrobiodiversity and the quality and diversity of individual diets, with special attention paid to the extent of processed foods in diets using a novel index of the processed content of diets, and 3) identify potential pathways linking agrobiodiversity and dietary diversity by assessing in each context a) drivers of crop selection among farmers, b) the flow of agricultural products in the post-harvest food value chain, c) the role of household income in influencing diets, and d) determinants of households? food purchasing and food sourcing behaviors.
We propose to identify and recruit a cohort of farming families across diverse, agroecological geographies in both Peru and Vietnam, and longitudinally follow these families for three years to understand how changes in agrobiodiversity, resulting from changes in biophysical variables, farm management practices, or other factors, impact the quality and diversity of diets, and the intermediate factors (e.g., income) that may shape these relationships. We will use a mixed methods approach, including collection of sociodemographic, agroecological, geospatial, and dietary data from quantitative interviews, direct measurement, and observation. These approaches will be combined with qualitative case studies that examine household decision making in depth, and the role of context, both within and between countries, in shaping the linkages between agrobiodiversity and dietary diversity.
Funding: Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation (subcontract: Research Agreement)
Funding Period: 1/31/2016 to 12/31/2017