We discuss food-consumption patterns in Central West Africa from 1961 to 2000 and some implications for combating malnutrition. The availability of food in the region improved in the 1960s, declined sharply in the 1970s and the early 1980s, and has shown a modest positive trend since
the mid-1980s. Notwithstanding obvious progress over the past decades and in the region as a whole, food availability today remains below the required levels for large parts of the population and appears unstable over time, particularly in the Sahelian zone. On average, diets in this zone
contain fewer than 2,200 kcal, compared with almost 2,500 kcal in the coastal zone. Conversely, protein deficiency is more common in the coastal zone, where a typical diet contains only 45 g of protein, compared with 60 g in the Sahelian zone. Furthermore, consumption is showing a dietary
shift toward cereals, while yield growth lags far behind population growth. The associated import dependency and pressure on land seem to gain significance regardless of the region's agro-ecological capacity to increase and to substitute cereal imports for locally produced food. Moreover,
food consumption appears responsive to income changes (calorie-income elasticity ranges from 0.25 to 0.62), while, in turn, it has a significant impact on nutritional outcomes (stuntingcalorie elasticity of –1.42). We conclude that combating malnutrition requires first broad-spectrum
income growth, and next specific policies that promote the yield and the contribution to diets of nutritious food produced within the region.
Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation. The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.
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