Examining the association between livestock ownership typologies and child nutrition in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia

PLoS One. 2018 Feb 6;13(2):e0191339. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191339. eCollection 2018.


Objective: To investigate the association between livestock ownership and dietary diversity, animal-source food consumption, height-for-age z-score, and stunting among children living in wildlife "buffer zones" of Zambia's Luangwa Valley using a novel livestock typology approach.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of 838 children aged 6-36 months. Households were categorized into typologies based on the types and numbers of animals owned, ranging from no livestock to large numbers of mixed livestock. We used multilevel mixed-effects linear and logistic regression to examine the association between livestock typologies and four nutrition-related outcomes of interest. Results were compared with analyses using more common binary and count measures of livestock ownership.

Results: No measure of livestock ownership was significantly associated with children's odds of animal-source food consumption, child height-for-age z-score, or stunting odds. Livestock ownership Type 2 (having a small number of poultry) was surprisingly associated with decreased child dietary diversity (β = -0.477; p<0.01) relative to owning no livestock. Similarly, in comparison models, chicken ownership was negatively associated with dietary diversity (β = -0.320; p<0.01), but increasing numbers of chickens were positively associated with dietary diversity (β = 0.022; p<0.01). Notably, neither child dietary diversity nor animal-source food consumption was significantly associated with height, perhaps due to unusually high prevalences of morbidities.

Conclusions: Our novel typologies methodology allowed for an efficient and a more in-depth examination of the differential impact of livestock ownership patterns compared to typical binary or count measures of livestock ownership. We found that these patterns were not positively associated with child nutrition outcomes in this context. Development and conservation programs focusing on livestock must carefully consider the complex, context-specific relationship between livestock ownership and nutrition outcomes-including how livestock are utilized by the target population-when attempting to use livestock as a means of improving child nutrition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Livestock*
  • Ownership*
  • Zambia