Does Sustainable Intensification of Maize Production Enhance Child Nutrition? Evidence from Rural Tanzania


October 13, 2017 - Jongwoo Kim, Nicole M. Mason, and Sieglinde Snapp

Jongwoo Kim, Nicole M. Mason, and Sieglinde Snapp, 2017. Does Sustainable Intensification of Maize Production Enhance Child Nutrition? Evidence from Rural Tanzania. Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research Paper 80. East Lansing: Michigan State University.

Food insecurity, child malnutrition, and land degradation remain persistent problems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Agricultural sustainable intensification (SI) has been proposed as a possible solution to simultaneously address these challenges. Narrowly defined, SI entails raising agricultural productivity while preserving or improving the natural resource base, but broader definitions of SI require that it also maintain or enhance human well-being, including child nutrition. Yet there is little empirical evidence on if adoption of practices that contribute to SI from an environmental standpoint do indeed improve child nutrition. To begin to fill this gap, this study uses nationally representative household panel survey data from Tanzania to analyze the child nutrition effects of rural households’ adoption of farming practices that contribute to the SI of maize production, an important staple. We consider three soil fertility management practices and group households into four categories based on their use of the practices on their maize plots: Non-adoption; Intensification (use of inorganic fertilizer); Sustainable (use of organic fertilizer, maize-legume intercropping, or both); and SI (joint use of inorganic fertilizer with organic fertilizer and/or maize-legume intercropping). Results from multinomial endogenous treatment effects models combined with the Mundlak-Chamberlain device to control for time invariant unobserved household-level heterogeneity suggest that among children aged 0-59 months, adoption of all three categories improves children’s height-for-age z-scores (HAZ) relative to Non-adoption, while only the SI category enhances children’s weight-for-age z-scores (WAZ). Since children are largely breastfed until age 2, we re-estimate the models using children age 25-59 months. The sub-sample results suggest that adopting practices in the Sustainable and SI categories increases HAZ by 0.44 and 0.38 units, respectively, and WAZ by 0.29 and 0.52 units, respectively, on average, relative to non-adopting households. Intensification has no statistically significant effects. These changes are against sub-sample mean HAZ and WAZ values of -1.77 and -0.98, respectively. In rural Tanzania, improving the SI of maize production from an environmental standpoint also appears to have beneficial effects on child nutrition.



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