Child undernutrition remains one of the greatest challenges for public health nutrition in rural areas in developing countries. Interventions aiming to increase and conserve agrobiodiversity seem to be promising alternatives to improve child nutrition. However, the existing literature on these interventions is not conclusive about their effectiveness in combating child undernutrition. We tested the hypothesis that ‘higher agrobiodiversity is associated with greater dietary diversity and better anthropometric status’ in rural Guatemala.
In the summer of 2016, we conducted a cross-sectional study with a sample of 154 children (6–60 months). We conducted dietary recalls and structured interviews, measured children’s weight and height, and visited food production systems (Milpas, home gardens, coffee plantations). Crop species richness, nutritional functional diversity, dietary diversity scores and anthropometric status were calculated.
Higher food self-sufficiency, nutritional functional diversity and dietary diversity scores were positively correlated with higher crop and animal species richness. Contrarily, remoteness to the local market was negatively correlated with dietary diversity scores. However, higher dietary diversity scores were not correlated with better child anthropometric status. Better child anthropometric status was positively correlated with improved sanitary conditions and maternal education; and negatively correlated with large household size and frequent child morbidity.
Agricultural diversification could diversify diets, increase nutrient availability and improve child anthropometry. However, these interventions need to be accompanied by sanitation improvements, family planning, nutritional education and women’s empowerment to strengthen their positive effect on diet and nutrition.