Agriculture, Climate and Child Nutrition in Nepal.
Background: Prevalence of poor nutrition among children under five is concentrated among
impoverished rural farming households in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Changes in
local agriculture could affect these children's nutrition outcomes through multiple
interrelated pathways, calling for more empirical evidence on specific ways to leverage
local agriculture for improved nutrition. ... read moreClimate trends and fluctuations pose a
particularly serious threat to agriculture and hence child nutrition, especially for
communities reliant on rain-fed agriculture. To improve resilience, we need to identify
the times and places where children are most vulnerable, identify protective factors
that limit harm from climatic variations on nutrition outcomes, and strengthen the
evidence base on mediators associated with better nutrition at each time and place.
Methods: This dissertation uses a combination of datasets for Nepal and a range of
regression models including ordinary least squares (OLS), multinomial logit, and logit
with fixed effects to investigate three inter-related aims. Aim 1 focuses on attained
heights as a summary measure of nutritional status, using randomness in birth months to
identify which children are most vulnerable to climatic variations by combining Nepal
Demographic and Health Surveys (2006 and 2011), Nepal Living Standards Survey (2003-2004
and 2010-2011), and NASA satellite observations of variation in the Normalized
Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) (n=6,127 children). The next two aims focus on
dietary intake, using differences within villages to identify links between household
food production and children's food consumption by pooling all observations (n= 5,978
children) from the two waves of panel data obtained from the Policy and Science of
Health, Agriculture, and Nutrition (PoSHAN) survey in 2013 and 2014: Aim 2 is to
identify the mediating effects of household wealth, and aim 3 is to identify mediating
effects of child age. Taken together, these aims could guide future interventions by
identifying potentially causal mechanisms behind agriculture-nutrition linkages.
Results: Boys and girls have different periods of vulnerability to NDVI fluctuations on
attained heights. Exposure to NDVI fluctuations during the second trimester of pregnancy
(p< 0.01) for boys, and in the first three months after birth for girls (p< 0.05)
is the most vulnerable periods to climatic variations. But the effect of NDVI
fluctuations on attained heights disappears for both boys and girls when households have
access to toilets (p< 0.01) and are situated in a commercialized district (p<
0.01) as compared to households without toilets or in a non-commercialized district,
respectively. In turning to household food production and consumption decisions, there
is a positive association between agricultural production diversity and child dietary
diversity but only among farming and poor households (p< 0.05), and among children
between the ages of 18-59 months (p< 0.01). Children are more likely to eat food that
households grow, but this only applied to households at lower wealth levels. In
particular, when households grow dark green leafy vegetables, or vitamin-A rich fruits
and vegetables, or raise livestock for eggs or dairy, those are likely to enter
children's diets but only for older children (≥ 18 months). Implications: New
avenues for interventions aiming to remedy the causes of stunting and low dietary
diversity could be devised, particularly regarding the timing and targeting of
interventions to help the most vulnerable children. Findings from aim 1 identify
opportunities to build climate resilience through antenatal care, sanitation, and access
to food markets. Results of aims 2 and 3 suggest that farm-diversifying programs
intended to improve child dietary diversity are likely to see maximum benefits by
targeting the poorest rural farming households and the most nutrient-dense foods, and be
accompanied by other policies to reach younger children (<18 months). These findings
corroborate and add to previous research on mechanisms and mediating factors linking
agriculture to nutrition, with methods and nationally-representative results for Nepal
that could potentially generalize to other
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2017.
Submitted to the Dept. of Food Policy & Applied Nutrition.
Advisor: William Masters.
Committee: Steven Block, and Patrick Webb.
Keywords: Agriculture economics, Nutrition, and Public health.read less