Title: Workshop #1 : Small farmer and rural household production systems : incorporating nutrition and consumption in farming systems research and rural development projects
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00089159/00001
 Material Information
Title: Workshop #1 : Small farmer and rural household production systems : incorporating nutrition and consumption in farming systems research and rural development projects
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Zalla, Tom
Publisher: Michigan State University,
Publication Date: 1979
Subject: Farming   ( lcsh )
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00089159
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

Full Text

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Small Farmer and Rural Household Production Systems

Incorporating Nutrition and Consumption in Farming Systems
Research and Rural Development Projects


Tom Zalla
Department of Agricultural Economics
Michigan State University


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A. Why The Concern About Nutrition And Consumption In Rural Develop-

ment Projects?

Consumption represents one-half of the economic equation. In

a very real sense it is the ultimate end of economic activity. Rural

development projects affect consumption through their influence on

what rural households produce and offer for sale to consumers, on what

they produce and process for their own consumption, and through their

influence on income levels and employment which affect consumption pat-

terns and effective demand more directly. Changes in both the amount

and composition of rural production and consumption lead to changes

in diets and to expansion or contraction in other areas of economic

activity in both rural and urban areas. Understanding these kinds

of production-consumption linkages will enable project designers

to maximize both the nutrition impact of rural development projects

as well as growth linkages between rural development projects and other

sectors of the economy.

B. How Do We Address This Concern

The pervasive linkages between production and consumption within

the rural household itself suggest that nutrition and consumption con-

cerns be addressed in the context of the household as a production-

consumption system rather than simply as a producer or consumer. This

means we need to begin paying as much attention to consumption pat-

terns as we do to production patterns in our field research. Furthermore


we need to find creative ways of doing this without delaying further

the entire field research process.

There are two sets of issues that need to be addressed: con-

ceptual and methodological. On the conceptual side, we need to break

away from the blind faith that merely increasing cash incomes will

eliminate underdevelopment in rural areas. Without denying the impor-

-tant role played by increasing incomes over the longrun, it seems to

me that there are many unanswered questions with respect to its impor-

tance in the shortrun. Do rural households, for example, treat cash

income and income in kind as perfect substitutes for each other? It

seems quite clear to me that at least the poorer ones with access to

land do not; that there is a noticable reluctance to use cash income

to purchase food. If this is true then rural development projects

which involve shifting .hbu.sh d~r sources away from food crops and

toward non-food crops may involve hidden nutritional costs whigh

need to be weighed in the design phase.

A related issue is whether increasing the degree to which

rural households are dependent on markets is necessary or even

desirable for improving their standard of living in the shortrun -

say over the 5 to 10 year period covered by most rural development

projects? Too often our assumption that increasing market involve-

ment is good rests on the hidden assumption that growing specializa-

tion will lead to increases in productivity, exchange, and to greater

availability of goods and services. Is this indeed what happens

among the majority of poor rural households? Or do we too often see

a growing emphasis on cash crops leading to poorer diets and a transfer

of productivity gains to better off urban consumers, or worse yet, to

foreign consumers rather than to rural households? A lot depends on

the proportion of rural households which have access to land and the

overall institutional context in which a project is cost. But clearly

real world results may not conform to our theoretical models. This

fact needs to be recognized and these issues need to be addressed when

designing projects aimed at the rural poor in a given context.
When there is, indeed, a tradeoff between nutrition and income

objectives, which are more important? What level of increase in income

is sufficient to warrant ignoring a negative nutritional impact should

one exist? How does the choice of which cash crop to emphasize affect

rural diets? Do we care if a large proportion of increases in cash

income go to alcohol consumption? Can such factors be influenced by

the choice of enterprises or technologies to be emphasized in a given

project? These are only someof the questions which need to be raised

before completing the design of target specific rural development projects.

On the methodological side the appropriate unit of analysis for

studying production-consumption interactions would appear to be the

household consumption unit rather than the production n~i-_nc-the rejifgn

different--Consumption data on rural households should be collected

for the same households for which production and income data are collected

so as to permit multivariate analysis of inter-relationships between

the two. Recent work by Lynch [1979] suggests that one interview every

other month which gathers food consumption data for the day proceeding

the interview and expenditure data for the proceeding 3-4 days will

adequately reflect both the average composition and seasonal variation

of household consumption patterns. This is certainly true for those

items which are widely consumed and of greatest interest to policymakers.

Bottlenecks in data tabulation and .analysis can be overcome by

standardizing questionnaire format and bringing programming resources

to bear from the very beginning of field work. In this way appropriate

programs can be developed and refined before data collection has been

completed. Some specialization in analyzing consumption data seems

necessary as well before we can get results to project designers and

policy makers within an acceptable time-frame. To be sure, researchers

must remain open to differences in consumption patterns and the factors

that influence them. However the bulk of those variables which have

an important bearing on what and how much households consume will be

similar from one area to the next. Only by building on these similari-

ties can we hope to incorporate food and non-food consumption and their

linkages with the rural production system into farming systems research

in an acceptable time-frame.

C. Usefulness for Project Planning

The usefulness of incorporating nutrition and consumption con-

cerns into farming systems research will depend on the importance policy

makers attack to the kinds of issues this kind of research addresses.

King and Byerlee [1977] use such data to analyze the impact of income

distribution and changes in income on factor intensities and locational

linkages in rural Sierra Leone. They found that 84% of al- 1Jncr cases

in consumer expenditures are for goods produced in small-scale agr i-

cultural, fishing, industrial and service sectors. This suggests that

increases in incomes are an effective means of creating employment.

Pinstrup-Anderson and Caicedo [1978] and Taylor [1977] use such data to

analyze the impact of changes in income distribution and food subsidies

on the caloric intake of the poor. The former concludes that increases

in income will greatly increase caloric and protein intake among the

poor. Taylor concludes that increasing subsidized food prices by

about 29% would reduce food energy intake of the rural poor by about

200 calories per person per day. Reutlinger and Selowsky [1976], on

the other hand, use more aggregate data to demonstrate that the mal-

nutrition problem is not likely to be solved by focusing attention

on growth in aggregate incomes and aggregate food supplies. Programs

aimed more directly at the poor and at nutritionally vulnerable groups

are required.

Looking more closely at direct links between what rural house-

holds produce and what they consume Kumar [1977] found that having a

household garden substantially improved the level of food intake among

rural households in India. Her data also suggest that the person to

whom an increase in income accrues (father or mother) and the distribu-

tion of that income flow over the year greatly influence its impact on

household diets. In a recent paper [Zalla, 1979] I presented some

data that suggests that at low income levels shifting land from food

crops to coffee production in Northern Tanzania is associated with a

net decline in caloric intake. This same set of data suggests that

producing milk as a cash crop has a net positive impact on household

protein consumption. Taken together these studies suggest that in

households where markets supply a relatively small share of total con-

sumption there will often be a tendency toward "surplus subsistence

consumption", i.e. consumption over and above the amount which would

be indicated by real income levels alone. This tendency carries obvious

implications for the design of rural development projects aimed at

improving the material level of living of the rural population.

In summary, gathering food intake data and relating it to

changes in the level and content of household income, production and

processing activities can expose net positive and negative influences

on rural diets. Gathering expenditure data allows quantification of

important secondary impacts of changes in production patterns and

income as these filter through the economy. This, in turn, will focus

attention on those agricultural and non-agricultural production acti-

vities with forward and backward linkages that promise to generate

additional income. It will also help to identify those industries,

both rural and urban, which face the greatest increases in demand as

production and incomes grow. Such information will, hopefully, lead

to policies which improve rural diets and which maximize rural-rural

and rural-urban linkages, employment, domestic value added and other

benefits potentially available from rural development projects.

Tom Zalla
Department of Agricultural Economics
Michigan State University


King, Robert P. and Derek Byerlee. 1977. "Income Distribution, Con-
sumption Patterns and Consumption Linkages in Rural Sierra
Leone." African Rural Economy Paper No. 16. East Lansing,
Michigan State University.

Kumar, Shubh K. 1977. "Role of the Household Economy in Determining
Child Nutrition at Low-income Levels: A Case Study in Kerala,"
Occasional Paper No. 95. Ithaca, Cornell University.

Lynch, Sarah Gibbons. 1979. "An Analysis of Interview Frequency
and Reference Period in Rural Consumption Expenditure Surveys:
A Case Study From Sierra Leone," Forthcoming MSU Rural Develop-
ment Working Paper.

Pinstrup-Andersen, Per and Elizabeth Caicedo. 1978. "The Potential
Impact of Changes in Income Distribution on Food Demand and
Human Nutrition." American Journal of Agricultural Economics,
Vol. 60, pp. 402-15.

Reutlinger, Shlomo and Mercelo Selowsky. 1976. Malnutrition and Poverty:
Magnitude and Policy Options. Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins
University Press.

Taylor, Lance. 1977. "Food Subsidies and Income Distribution' in
Egypt." Washington, D.C., World Bank.

Zalla, Tom. 1979. "The Relative Importance of Money and Subsistence
Incomes in Explaining Dietary Intake in Kilimanjaro--Some
Preliminary Results." Paper presented at the Midwest Conference
on Economic Development, November 9-10. Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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