The Proof of Economic Welfare Is in the Eating of Nutritious Diets by the Resource-Poor: A Political Economy Analysis of the International Evidence of Dietary Consumption in Rural Africa

Gamel Abdul-Nasser Salifu


This paper provides a summary of the international literature published in the thematic area of household dietary diversity with emphasis on the importance of sustainable approaches to global hunger and malnutrition. The paper highlights the correlation between inadequate household dietary diversity, child mortality and death. It also draws attention to the subtle combinations of social, economic and political interactions in enhancing nutritional welfare. The paper further raises a major argument that contemporary explorations of dietary diversity have failed to sustain the important tension and dialectical debate between diverse empirical realities and wider theorization of the concrete linkage of economic welfare to dietary diversity. The paper sets the tone for wider conceptualization of the phenomenon by clearly outlining the role of multiple relations of low incomes, inadequate maternal-child health care as well as poor environmental sanitation as leading predicators of under-nutrition in rural Africa. This theorization makes the case that, studying the relations and conjunctions of economic welfare via the agency of dietary consumption, is critical for emergent processes of change as the given-evidence of under-nutrition does not allow economists to draw solid conclusions on status of dietary diversity in rural Africa without a dynamic understanding and explicit recognition of the wider abstractions of political economy undercurrents in economic welfare and nutritional well-being literature. That said, the paper re-affirms the subtle evidence that under-nutrition and reduced body-mass of adults, often cited in the development literature as proxy-indicators of poor dietary diversity, needs to be re-evaluated as reduced body-mass in adults could be an indication of other incidences of environmental-stresses rather than of food-energy stress. In this vein, the review sustains a new argument that, resource-poor households modify attitude to food consumption in order to self-protect against income losses in household production systems. This position has implications for economic welfare and nutritional diversity research as food may not always come first for the resource-poor. It also opens new avenues for economic research by projecting the hypothesis that consumption of nutritious diets cannot be seen as a unique object to be sought by resource-poor to the exclusion of all other priorities including raising income frontiers through savings for wealth accumulation. The pre-eminence of food security over income diversification activities of rural households as a broader strategy to reduce malnutrition and poverty in the developing world could be re-examined to give livelihood activities a central role in household dietary diversity research.

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International Journal of Business Administration
ISSN 1923-4007(Print) ISSN 1923-4015(Online)


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