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THE NEXUS BETWEEN AGRICULTURE AND NUTRITION 33 Discrepancies in the findings of past growth–nutrition studies are com-


monly attributed to a number of shortcomings: poor-quality data that are often not comparable across countries, failure to recognize the nonlinear and dynamic relationship between growth and nutrition, and disregard for issues related to diet quality resulting from different patterns of growth. These limitations support the argument that growth and nutrition are not homogenous entities and should not be treated as such.


Do Sectoral Growth Patterns Matter? Past experience has shown that agricultural development can serve as an engine of growth and poverty reduction, primarily for two reasons: (1) there are backward and forward links in production and consumption between agriculture and the rest of the economy, and (2) the majority of poor people live in rural areas, so agricul- ture makes up a large share of their income, expenditures, and employment. The question we face now is to what extent can agricultural growth—and growth in particular subsectors of agriculture—be a springboard for nutritional improvement through such channels as increased agricultural production and lower food prices. Although empirical evidence on the nutritional impacts of agricultural growth


is limited, it shows that the impact varies across measures of undernutrition and stages of development. One cross-country study finds that agricultural growth, in particular, is associated with a reduction in underweight and leads to reduced stunt- ing in more food-insecure countries, with the exception of India (Headey 2011). While evidence from the analysis also suggests that the effect of agricultural growth on calorie intake is significant, its effect on diet diversity—used as a rough proxy for micronutrient consumption—is minimal. A study conducted in Yemen shows that although agricultural growth can lead to large reductions in undernutrition, its impact on stunting is only about 10 percent of its impact on calorie deficiency (Ecker, Breisinger, and Pauw 2011). Furthermore, cross-country evidence from the study shows that the growth–nutrition relationship varies according to a country’s economic status, with the largest impact occurring at low levels of per capita GDP. Within the agriculture sector, individual subsectors—like staple crops or


livestock—have different impacts on development outcomes. Whether growth in a subsector is pro-poor and pro-nutrition depends on (1) its linkages with the rest of the economy, (2) its initial size and geographic concentration, (3) its growth potential, and (4) market opportunities. A study in Tanzania, for example, found that high agricultural growth did little to improve nutrition because it was driven primarily by crops less likely to be grown by the poor (Pauw and Thurlow 2010). Other studies have also found that growth in staple crops contributes more to poverty reduction and calorie intake than does growth in export crops, given that


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