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Soc Sci Med. 1993 Jun;36(11):1407-16.

Nutrition and the commercialization of agriculture: ten years later.

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Department of Behavioral Science, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40536-0086.


This paper reviews the results of studies examining the impacts of agricultural commercialization on food consumption and nutritional status carried out over the last 10 years. Several conclusions can be drawn. First, the income effects of shifts to cash cropping are highly dependent on pricing policy for cash crops. Short term gains seen in some schemes are often highly dependent on the maintenance of high prices for commercial crops. Second, those schemes in which subsistence production is protected or stabilized are more likely to show positive results with an increase in income generated from cash cropping. Third, increased income does not translate directly into increased food consumption at either the household or individual (child) level. Shifts in control of income from women to men are important. Fourth, morbidity, especially from diarrheal disease is an important predictor of child growth. A failure to improve morbidity of children may offset gains in food consumption and in some instances a decrease in the time women have to care for their children as a result of commercialization has resulted in greater morbidity among children. Finally, the question "Who benefits and who loses?" is rarely addressed in these studies. The impacts of commercialization are mixed. They are highly dependent on the nature of the crop, the control of production and income, the allocation of household labor, the maintenance of subsistence production, land tenure, and pricing policies for both cash crops and food stuffs. It is these 'intervening' factors, not crop choice, that appear to be the most crucial in the nutritional status of rural people. Economic, food and agricultural policies and programs that advantage the most vulnerable population groups are the most likely to provide positive benefits in terms of food security and nutritional status. To place the emphasis on commercialization per se is to misplace it.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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