Agricultural development and child nutrition: What do we know?

Type Working Paper - Policy synthesis for cooperating USAID offices and country missions
Title Agricultural development and child nutrition: What do we know?
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2000
BACKGROUND: Although Mali has experienced moderate economic and agricultural growth over the past decade, rates of child malnutrition remain alarmingly high. Results from the 1995-96 Demographic and Health Survey in Mali (DHS II) classify 30% of the children in the study as stunted and 23% as wasted1.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this policy synthesis are to: (1) review the key biological and social factors that underlie poor health and nutrition in children; (2) address the potential effects of agricultural development on these
underlying determinants; and (3) relate these findings to conditions in Mali, where policy makers are deeply concerned about the levels of childhood malnutrition revealed by recentstudies, such as the DHS II. Specifically, this synthesis highlights important findings in developing countries on the relationship between child malnutrition and
• Child care, maternal education and feeding practices;
• Household income, food expenditures and consumption;
• Intra-household resource allocation; and
• Seasonal factors.

FINDINGS: Evidence from previous studies indicates that increasing income through agricultural commercialization is a necessary but not sufficient condition for improving child health and nutrition. Specifically, these studies suggest
• Agricultural commercialization is associated with higher incomes;
• Higher incomes do lead to greater expenditures on food, particularly for more expensive items like meats;
• Higher and more diversified incomes are associated with less seasonal insecurity;
• The effects of higher income on better health and nutrition for children are small;
• Disease and sanitary conditions are important determinants of nutritional status;
• Seasonal work patterns may also affect child nutrition; and
• Who in the household controls resources does matter, although the effects of raising income outweigh changes caused by control over cash incomes.

Related studies