The forgotten agriculture-nutrition link: Estimating the energy requirements of different farming technologies in rural Zambia
This study (PDF) by PARI compares the energy requirements of farm households in rural Zambia that are characterized by three different levels of mechanization: hand tools, animal draught power and tractors. The link between the quantity of food that farmers produce and nutritional outcomes and the link between farm diversity and consumption diversity has been analysed. However, a third agriculture-nutrition link has been neglected: the impact of how food is produced on human energy requirements, and, consequently, nutritional outcomes. This neglect persists despite the fact that the majority of smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa rely on hand tools for farming, which implies heavy physical work and, thus, high energy requirements. Results of this study show that during land preparation, individuals in non-mechanized households are, on the average, not able to meet their dietary energy requirements. In subsequent farming periods, results are more mixed. Gender differences are noteworthy throughout, with men mostly having higher physical activity levels and energy requirements compared to women The findings suggest that farm technologies affect nutritional outcomes substantially and that this neglected agriculture-nutrition linkage deserves more scientific and political attention in order to reduce the prevalence of both under- and malnutrition among smallholder farmers, while safeguarding against emerging double burden of nutrition. A policy brief (PDF) translates these results into a number of recommendations: 1) Include linkages between farm technologies and nutrition in agricultural research and policy making; 2) Monitor the impact of caloric energy saving technologies on obestiy; 3) Promote agricultural mechanization to save human energy; 4) Conduct more research on other mechanization-nutrition linkages.