Economics of food intake, nutrition and farm households' health in Southwest Nigeria
Omotayo, Abiodun Olusola
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Persistent hunger, malnutrition, and poor health inextricably threaten the ability of several countries to develop. The burdens of this trio on economic development in the African continent cannot be overemphasized. This study investigated the economics of farming households' food intake, nutrition and health in the Southwestern part of Nigeria. Specifically, the study described farming households' food intake, nutritional and health status in relation to their socio-economic characteristics; determined the factors that influence farming household's nutrition (proxied by composite food index, food intake diversity, and hunger severity index ) , analyzed the effect of food intake diversity on the health status of farmers (proxied by having a normal body mass index, self-rated health and day(s) of incapacitation to sickness or injury). The data were collected with a structured questionnaire through a multistage sampling of 420 farming households from the southwest geopolitical zone of Nigeria. Indicators of food intake, nutrition and health were computed with dietary diversity scores (HDDS),coping options due to hunger, days of incapacitation to sickness and anthropometric measures such as household body mass index (BMI) and self-rated health. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics (percentage, standard deviation, mean etc.), Principal Component Analysis (PCA), and inferential statistics such as Poisson regression, Ordinary Least Square regression, Logistic regression, Negative Binomial Regression and Two Stage Probit regression. The descriptive results show that the farmers in Oyo state had highest average age (54.60 ±11.30 years), while years of farming were highest in Osun state (19.57± 13.04 years). Average years of schooling was highest in Ogun state (10.28 ± 5.18 years). Also, in Osun state, the average household size was 7 which was the highest of the three selected states. In addition, the majority (90.24%) of these farmers cultivated ≤ 4 hectares of land across all the selected states. In addition, 40.95% of all households' ate an average of two times in a day while 42.38% ate ≤ 3 types of food, 50. 71 % eat 4-6 food, 5. 71 % took 6-9 food types within 24 hours recall time. The mean scores of HODS across the selected states were 5.20, 5.10 and 4.31 in Oyo, Ogun and Osun state respectively which was lower than the set cut-off point of 6 recommended by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). The most common illness across the selected states was malaria, with 40% in Oyo state. In addition, average annual sick time among farmers was 2 ill health episodes. The hospital was the most chosen source of health care with 62.80% in Osun state. Average days of incapacitation were 25.27days, 22.44 days and 21.60 days in Oyo, Ogun, and Osun states respectively, translating into an estimated average annual per capita income loss of N52,559.44 ($262.80), N46,942.67 ($234.71) and N48,912.92 ($244.56). Average body mass indices of 25.63 kg/m2±2.67 (overweight), 26.42 kg/m² ± 2.76 (overweight) and 26.22 kg/m² ± 3.2 (overweight) were recorded in Oyo, Ogun, and Osun states respectively. However, 1.67% was underweight, 32.14% normal, 60.24% overweight and 5.95% obese in the combined data. The Poisson regression results showed that farming households' diversity in food intakes increased significantly (p<0.10) with total revenue, nutritional knowledge, households' possession of means of transportation and source(s) of finance. In the regression results of the composite food intake diversity indices (generated from PCA), type of agriculture practiced by the farmer(s) and households' other source(s) of income significantly reduced food diversity indices (p<0.10) while households number of working class, net returns, households' dependency ratio, possession of means of transportation, and farm yield were positively significant to the farming households nutrition status in the study area. The factors that significantly increased (p<0.10) households' hunger severity were household heads' age, tribe of the head, alcoholism habit and households' water purity while the year (s) of education of the respondents reduced it. The Logistic regression model of the effect of farming households nutrition on health (captured with respondents self-rated health ) showed that gender of the households' head, marital states of the head, household food security, respondents' use of insect net and the respondents knowledge of nutrition significantly reduced the probability of reporting good health while educational year( s) of the farmers, total cost of health, consumption of fruit and possession of means of transport increased it. The Two-Stage Probit regression results of the linkage between the farming households' nutrition and health showed that respondents' nutrition status, choice of health care service, farm distance significantly increased (p<0.10) the probability of having normal BMI, while farming as primary occupation, type of toilet and nutrition knowledge reduced it. In addition, using the Negative Binomial Regression model, assessment of the effect of farming households' nutrition on health (proxied by their day(s) of incapacitation to sickness) indicated that gender of the households' head, marital status of the head, consumption of milk and total cost of health significantly increased day(s) incapacitated while the year(s) of education reduced it. It was therefore concluded that diversity of food intake among the farmers was low and being overweight was a major problem in the study area. In addition, environmental and health system of the rural farming households needs intervention. Ageing, large household size, lack of credit facilities, small land cultivation among others were also identified as major problem among the rural farmers. It was however recommended that considerable investment in human capital should be encouraged since food diversity and nutrition education enhances households' nutrition and health status.