As households in rural India increasingly shift away from farming, a researcher from The University of Western Australia has examined the impact will this have on food and nutrition security.
UWA Professor of Economics Anu Rammohan’s study investigated the relationship between land, food, and nutrition security in rural India.
Non-farm income now makes up approximately half of a total farm household’s income, suggesting that rural households in India are increasingly less reliant on land and agricultural livelihoods.
Professor Rammohan said the study was the first in India to follow the same cohort of children over an 11-year period.
It provided robust quantitative evidence of the impact of land ownership on child body measurements.
Using a sample of 1311 children (and their households) who were aged one year in 2002, Professor Rammohan and research colleagues Lili Vu and Srinivas Goli measured child nutritional status using a height-for-age z-score (haz).
The haz is calculated using children’s height/length and date of birth and refers to the number of standard deviations below or above the median height of reference population used by 2006 WHO Children Growth Standard.
The results showed that large agricultural land ownership was significantly associated with better child nutrition and household food security.
There was also strong evidence of the influence of field crop production and livestock ownership on the consumption of fruits, vegetables, pulses, milk, and dairy products.
“The key point is that rural livelihoods are evolving,” she said.
“As individuals move towards non-farm livelihoods, it is critical to understand the role that remittances may play in supporting household food and nutrition security.”
Given that the study used a random sample, Professor Rammohan said the findings had implications both for India and more widely.
“We have observed similar trends in Myanmar,” she said.
“Allowing for different contexts, this research can certainly be applied to different countries, and fits in with the international literature that sees a growing trend towards non-farm livelihoods among agricultural households.”