May 28, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Ingrid Espinosa
15th May, 2022

Building roads and marketplaces to allow easier market access may help African countries beat malnutrition as a better way of promoting a diverse diet, according to a new report by Malawi’s MwAPATA Institute and the University of Bonn. 

“Improved market access has a particularly positive impact on nutritional status” says Dr Makaiko Khonje, agriculture and policy researcher of the MwAPATA Institute think tank. “If you can’t sell half the food in the end, but have to throw it away, then of course the effort is not worthwhile,” adds Dr. Matin Qaim, agricultural economist at the Center for Development Research, University of Bonn.

Crop diversification was previously seen as the key to a balanced diet and boosting nutrition, especially in small farms where people eat the food they grow. However, researchers suggest that market access is a bigger factor. 

With the African Union declaring 2022 the Year of Nutrition, approaches tackling the social side of food, like markets and distribution, are gaining more attention.

The study, published in Lancet Planetary Health, used data from 20,000 farms and 50,000 children from Ethiopia, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda to compare crop and livestock diversity with children’s nutritional status based on their height and weight. 

“A certain amount of variety also makes sense from an environmental perspective and to reduce risk for smallholders,” says Dr. Qaim. 

The approach could prove a valuable tool in saving thousands from malnutrition, as six of the top ten countries with the most people living in food crisis are in Africa. 

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Ingrid Espinosa is a Sub-Editor for I,Science and is studying an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London

This article was sub-edited by John Bader, the News Editor for I,Science and Science Media Production master’s student at Imperial College London