Grain legume cultivation and children’s dietary diversity in smallholder farming households in rural Ghana and Kenya

Submitted by charlotte.schilt on

Boosting smallholder food production can potentially improve children’s nutrition in rural Sub-Saharan Africa through a production-own consumption pathway and an income-food purchase pathway. Rigorously designed studies are needed to provide evidence for nutrition impact, but are often difficult to implement in agricultural projects. Within the framework of a large agricultural development project supporting legume production (N2Africa), we studied the potential to improve children’s dietary diversity by comparing N2Africa and non-N2Africa households in a cross-sectional quasi-experimental design, followed by structural equation modelling (SEM) and focus group discussions in rural Ghana and Kenya. Comparing N2Africa and non-N2Africa households, we found that participating in N2Africa was not associated with improved dietary diversity of children. However, for soybean, SEM indicated a relatively good fit to the posteriori model in Kenya but not in Ghana, and in Kenya only the production-own consumption pathway was fully supported, with no effect through the income-food purchase pathway. Results are possibly related to differences in the food environment between the two countries, related to attribution of positive characteristics to soybean, the variety of local soybean-based dishes, being a new crop or not, women’s involvement in soybean cultivation, the presence of markets, and being treated as a food or cash crop. These findings confirm the importance of the food environment for translation of enhanced crop production into improved human nutrition. This study also shows that in a situation where rigorous study designs cannot be implemented, SEM is a useful option to analyse whether agriculture projects have the potential to improve nutrition.

Jager, I de, Abizari, A.R., Douma, J.C., Giller, K.E., Brouwer, I.D.
Food Security, 9 (5), 1053–1071