Agricultural Food Production Diversity and Dietary Diversity among Female Small Holder Farmers in a Region of the Ecuadorian Andes Experiencing Nutrition Transition

Nutrients. 2020 Aug 15;12(8):2454. doi: 10.3390/nu12082454.


Some rural areas of Ecuador, including the Imbabura Province of the Andes Highlands, are experiencing a double burden of malnutrition where micronutrient deficiencies persist at the same time obesity is increasing as many traditional home-grown foods are being replaced with more commercially prepared convenience foods. Thus, the relationships among agricultural food production diversity (FPD), dietary diversity (DD), and household food insecurity (HFI) of the rural small holder farmers need further study. Therefore, we examined these associations in small holder farmers residing in this Province in the Andes Highlands (elevation > 2500 m). Non-pregnant maternal home managers (n = 558, x age = 44.1, SD = 16.5 y) were interviewed regarding the number of different agricultural food crops cultivated and domestic animals raised in their family farm plots. DD was determined using the Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women Score (MDD-W) based on the number of 10 different food groups consumed, and household food insecurity (HFI) was determined using the 8-item Household Food Insecurity Experience Scale. The women reported consuming an average of 53% of their total food from what they cultivated or raised. Women with higher DD [MMD-W score ≥ 5 food groups (79% of total sample)] were on farms that cultivated a greater variety of crops (x = 8.7 vs. 6.7), raised more animals (x = 17.9 vs. 12.7, p < 0.05), and reported lower HFI and significantly higher intakes of energy, protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin A (all p < 0.05). Multiple regression analyses demonstrated that FPD was only modestly related to DD, which together with years of education, per capita family income, and HFI accounted for 26% of DD variance. In rural areas of the Imbabura Province, small holder farmers still rely heavily on consumption of self-cultivated foods, but greater diversity of crops grown in family farm plots is only weakly associated with greater DD and lower HFI among the female caretakers.

Keywords: Ecuador; dietary diversity; food crop diversity; food insecurity; nutrition; women.