Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Nexus in Rural Settings: Case Studies from Northwest Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa University


Food insecurity is a critical challenge in developing countries like Ethiopia, where agriculture is the primary livelihood base for majority of people. Market-oriented policies currently promote measures to reduce food insecurity in the country. This seems a paradox that seeks evidence-based research to come up with effective and sustainable solutions. Majority of these vulnerable people being smallholder farmers predominantly managed agriculture ignited the desire to conduct this research with perspective of suggesting viable solutions to mitigate their food insecurity through empirical research to target. Evidence on agriculture-foodnutrition (AFN) nexus is also weak and winding. This thesis aims at investigating how agriculture influences household food security (HFS) and individual nutrition status from pathways perspectives that most studies often confined to determine the size and direction of impacts, rather than channels by which these impacts occur. Cross-sectional data were collected from 545 households, 245 women, 231 men and 80 children under five years randomly selected in northwest Ethiopia for evaluating impacts of key pathways of agriculture (subsistence, income and empowerment) to FS of households, women and children. Findings from bivariate Tobit regression revealed that both crop and livestock commercialization improved HFS, but in quite different ways. The income from crop sales was instrumental in allowing households to buy additional foods while livestock sales fostered crop diversity for self-consumption by allowing them to purchase non-food items. Livestock commercialization was more important than crop commercialization for better HFS due to its strong net positive effect. The dose-response analyses affirmed that diversifying crops in rainy season up to certain level of intensity (0.3) and specialization in dry season increased HFS. This highlighted the relevance of income generated from diverse farming and specialization in the respective season. Additionally, livestock diversity could expand HFS mainly from diverse food groups (0.6), which may suggest livestock husbandry is more nutrition sensitive than cropping. Among 224 dual households with primary female and male adults, 224 women and 75 children in Libokemkem district used for assessing empowerment viii pathways, 33% of households, 44% of women and 28% of children are food insecure while 64% of women are empowered with efficiency in crop farm at 0.652. Crop production can be increased by 35% even with existing inputs as farmers enabled to perform optimally. The generalized structural equation modeling also depicted that empowering women in agriculture improved dietary diversity and ensured food security for women, children and households in Libokemkem. The interaction pathways helped enhance food diversification and better market orientation of farm production encouraged these outcomes to ascend among all aforementioned groups. However, the adverse implication of efficiency interaction proved to be stronger in magnitude than its direct positive effect, the efficiency interaction pathway implied net reduction of these outcomes across all groups. Heavy workload and lack of voice in production decisions are the two major domains contributed to 48 and 22% of women disempowerment respectively. This suggests interventions specifically targeting these dimensions of disempowerment to increase empowerment to affect AFN nexus positively. Some even suggest gender has a disconnecting/adverse effect on such linkages. AFN linkages may not require production systems to be subsistent. Supporting investments in improving road infrastructure to function all weathers, better access to institutional services (credit & off-farm employment) and enhanced awareness of extension towards promoting commercialization and diversified food consumption seem to be more promising. This research concludes commercialization is crucial not just for FS, but also for smallholder agriculture in providing additional nutrition. Also it recommends households focus on cash crops production to increase income during dry season, and promoting diversification up to certain level in rainy season to expand FS through subsistence and income pathways. Women empowerment further heightened the role of these pathways in improving FS. Off-farm employment is also suggested as a means of enhancing household resilience to withstand shocks and improve agricultural productivity.



Agriculture diversification, commercialization, empowerment, food security