Participatory agroecological research on climate change adaptation improves smallholder farmer household food security and dietary diversity in Malawi
This study in Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment examines whether agroecological farming practices, when employed by highly vulnerable households in sub-Saharan Africa, can improve food security and dietary diversity. The findings show that participatory agroecology experimentation increased intercropping, legume diversification and the addition of compost, manure and crop residue amendments to the soil. Intercropping was associated with food security and the use of organic soil amendments was associated with gains in dietary diversity. Household food security and dietary diversity increased significantly over a 2-year period. Spousal discussion about farming was strongly associated with increased household food security and dietary diversity. Households who discussed farming with their spouse were 2.4 times more likely to be food secure and have diverse diets. Addition of compost or manure to the soil significantly influenced dietary diversity. These findings indicate that poor, vulnerable farmers can use agroecological methods to effectively improve food and nutritional security in sub-Saharan Africa. The study also highlights how linking agroecology to participatory research approaches that promote farmer experimentation and gender equity also lead to greater health and well-being. The study sheds light on how agroecological approaches can rapidly improve food security and dietary diversity, even under conditions of acute social, health or ecological stress. It draws attention to issues of equity and farmer-led approaches in addressing food security and nutrition.