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Farm production, market access and dietary diversity in Malawi

  • Stefan Koppmair (a1), Menale Kassie (a2) and Matin Qaim (a1)



The association between farm production diversity and dietary diversity in rural smallholder households was recently analysed. Most existing studies build on household-level dietary diversity indicators calculated from 7d food consumption recalls. Herein, this association is revisited with individual-level 24 h recall data. The robustness of the results is tested by comparing household- and individual-level estimates. The role of other factors that may influence dietary diversity, such as market access and agricultural technology, is also analysed.


A survey of smallholder farm households was carried out in Malawi in 2014. Dietary diversity scores are calculated from 24 h recall data. Production diversity scores are calculated from farm production data covering a period of 12 months. Individual- and household-level regression models are developed and estimated.


Data were collected in sixteen districts of central and southern Malawi.


Smallholder farm households (n 408), young children (n 519) and mothers (n 408).


Farm production diversity is positively associated with dietary diversity. However, the estimated effects are small. Access to markets for buying food and selling farm produce and use of chemical fertilizers are shown to be more important for dietary diversity than diverse farm production. Results with household- and individual-level dietary data are very similar.


Further increasing production diversity may not be the most effective strategy to improve diets in smallholder farm households. Improving access to markets, productivity-enhancing inputs and technologies seems to be more promising.

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Farm production, market access and dietary diversity in Malawi

  • Stefan Koppmair (a1), Menale Kassie (a2) and Matin Qaim (a1)


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