Livestock production, animal source food intake, and young child growth: the role of gender for ensuring nutrition impacts

Soc Sci Med. 2014 Mar;105:16-21. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.01.001. Epub 2014 Jan 11.


Animal source foods (ASF) provide critical micronutrients in highly bioavailable forms, with the potential to efficiently address undernutrition among young children living in developing countries. There is limited evidence for how livestock ownership might increase ASF intake in poor households either through own-consumption or income generation. Along with lack of nutrition knowledge, gender dimensions may affect the pathways leading from livestock ownership to child ASF intake and ultimately to young child growth. Using data from a large-scale impact evaluation conducted in Kenya, this study tested the hypothesis that co-owned/female-owned livestock would be associated with improved child growth, mediated by increases in ASF consumption. Data were collected from September 2010 to January 2011 from households in six provinces in Kenya on a broad range of agricultural, economic, social, health and nutrition factors. Children ages 6-60 months were included in this analysis (n = 183). In this sample, co-owned/female-owned livestock was valued at 18,861 Kenyan shillings in contrast with male-owned livestock valued at 66,343 Kenyan shillings. Multivariate linear regression models showed a positive association between co-owned/female-owned livestock with child weight-for-age z score (WAZ) after adjusting for caregiver education level, income, child age, and child sex. A mediating effect by child ASF intake was evident, explaining 25% of the relationship of livestock ownership with child WAZ, by Sobel-Goodman test (p < .05). A trend towards significance was demonstrated for co-owned/female-owned livestock and height-for-age z score (HAZ), and no effect was apparent for weight-for-height z score (WHZ). The partial mediating effect may be indicative of other factors inherent in co-owned/female-owned livestock such as higher status of females in these households with greater influence over other child care practices promoting growth. Nonetheless, our study suggests targeting females in livestock production programming may better ensure improvements in child nutrition.

Keywords: Animal source foods; Female ownership productive wealth; Kenya; Livestock production; Young child nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data*
  • Animals
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Kenya
  • Livestock*
  • Male
  • Meat*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Ownership / statistics & numerical data*
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors