Association between irrigated farming and improved nutrition in farm households in Malawi
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More intensive use of Malawi's water and agricultural land resources through increased irrigation is expected to enable Malawians gain greater access to more food and a more diverse range of foods. The nutritional status of the nutritionally vulnerable in Malawian communities should improve in consequence. However, there is little evidence from Malawi or elsewhere to confirm whether irrigation improves nutritional status at household level. Using data from the Third Malawi Integrated Household Survey of 2010/11, this article presents a basic assessment of whether increased use of irrigated farming by smallholders in Malawi might result in better nutritional outcomes for children in Malawian farm households and more diverse diets in these households. The association between the use of irrigation by farm households and the growth performance of their children aged six months to five years was positive but weak and not significant (P>0.05). The positive association between irrigated farming and the diversity in the foods consumed by farm households was somewhat stronger and significant (P<0.05). In particular, irrigation is shown to be an important component in reducing seasonality in household dietary diversity.
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