Open Access Advancing human nutrition without degrading land resources through modeling cropping systems in the Ethiopian Highlands

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Food shortage in sub-Saharan Africa is generally considered a function of limited access to food, with little thought to nutritional quality. Analyzing household production of nutrients across farming systems could be valuable in guiding the improvement of those systems. An optimization model was employed to analyze the scenario of human nutrition and cropland allocation in enset (Enset ventricosum)/root crop-based and cereal-based systems of the Ethiopian Highlands. The type and amount of nutrients produced in each system were analyzed, and an optimization model was used to analyze which cropping strategies might improve the nutritional quality of the household using existing resources. Both production systems were in food deficit, in terms of quantity and quality of nutrients, except for iron. The energy supply of resource-poor households in the enset/root crop-based system was only 75% of the recommended daily dietary allowance (RDA) of the World Health Organization (WHO), whereas resource-rich farmers were able to meet their energy, protein, zinc, and thiamine demands. Extremely high deficiency was found in zinc, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, which provided only 26.5%, 34%, 1.78%, and 12%, of the RDA, respectively. The RDA could be satisfied if the land area occupied by enset, kale, and beans were expanded by about 20%, 10%, and 40%, respectively, at the expense of maize and sweet potato. The cereal-based system also had critical nutrient deficits in calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, which provided 30%, 2.5%, and 2% of the RDA, respectively. In the cereal system, the RDA could be fully satisfied by reducing cropland allocated to barley by about 50% and expanding the land area occupied by faba beans, kale, and enset. A shift from the cereal/root crop-dominated system to a perennial-enset dominated system would decrease soil erosion by improving the crop factor by about 45%. This shift would also have a very strong positive impact on soil fertility management. However, any policy suggestions for change in cropland allocation should be done through negotiations with households, communities, and district stakeholders.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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  • 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.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106
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