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Open Access Relationships among production systems, preschool nutritional status, and pesticide-related toxicity in seven Ecuadorian communities: A multi-case study approach

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Background. Among small Andean potato farmers, greater pesticide use and better linkage to markets are promoted as ways to improve farm outputs and incomes. The health of household members is assumed to improve with higher incomes, although evidence to support such an assumption remains scarce.

Objective. Using a multidisciplinary approach, we sought to characterize agricultural systems producing potatoes and to assess relationships between these characteristics and farm household health indicators.

Methods. We included seven communities linked to a regional agricultural potato production platform (socio-organizational “space” for potato commercialization) in Chimborazo, Ecuador. The unit of analysis was the community, each of which was classified according to its level of intensity of potato production as more intensive, intermediate, or less intensive. Data on crop management, household food intake, child anthropometry, and impacts of pesticide use on adult health were collected by survey.

Results. The net income from potato production was similar in communities with more intensive and intermediate production systems and lower in those with less intensive systems. However, deficits in protein intake were more common among children in communities with more intensive systems (63%) than among those in communities with intermediate (53%) and less intensive (37%) systems. Deficits in thiamin and riboflavin intake were more prevalent in communities with more and less intensive systems than in those with intermediate systems. In contrast, the prevalence of moderate chronic malnutrition, as measured by height-for-age, was greater among children in communities with less intensive systems (27%) than among those in communities with intermediate (5%) and more intensive (7%) systems. Across all intensities, frequent use of highly hazardous pesticides was associated with adverse health effects.

Conclusions. Agricultural development programs need to work more cross-sectorally to realize the potential health benefits associated with intensification of production.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

More about this publication?
  • 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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