Influence of gendered roles on legume utilization and improved child dietary intake in Malawi
The relationship between gender roles, legume production, utilization and child feeding practices in rural smallholder households of Dedza and Ntcheu districts in Malawi was investigated and analyzed. A cross-sectional research study was conducted with legume farming households with children aged 6-23 months who were part of the Africa RISING ‘mother trial’ or ‘baby trials’ for two farming seasons (2014/2015 to 2015/2016). Africa RISING project encourages smallholder farmers to grow legumes namely, groundnut (Arachis hypogaea), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) and soya bean (Glycin max) as one way of improving the wellbeing of smallholder farmers. The key objective of the research was to assess the influence of gender roles, legume production, utilization and infant and young child dietary intake. In total, 291 households with children 6-23 months were targeted. Eight focus group discussions (FDGs) for in-depth qualitative data were conducted. Two 24-hour dietary recalls and food frequency questionnaires were used to collect data on infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices. Data collected were extracted, arranged, recorded and analyzed by using SPSS version 21. About 18% of children aged 6-23 months received a minimum dietary diversity (the consumption of four or more food groups from the seven food groups), 2.5% received a minimum acceptable diet (indicator measures both the minimum feeding frequency and minimum dietary diversity, as appropriate for various age groups) and 37.5% of children received a minimum meal frequency (frequency of receiving solid, semi-solid, or soft foods at the minimum numbers of two and three times for children aged 6–8 months, and 9–23 months, respectively). Control on use of income by women had a positive and significant association with minimum dietary diversity (P<0.05), minimum meal frequency (P<0.05) and minimum acceptable diets (P<0.05) among children of both sexes. Children aged 6-23 months from households where women were actively involved in partial processing and budgeting of legumes met minimum dietary diversity than children from nonparticipating households. Women farmers were more knowledgeable about legumes; played an important role in seed selection, storage and processing; however, the findings signal an opportunity to increase women’s income by involving them in market information. Increasing legume production at household level does not mean increasing the nutritional status among children (6-23 months). Several factors related to gender roles, markets accessibility and legume utilization have an effect on infant and young child feeding practices.
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