Livestock Research for Rural Development 15 (6) 2003

Citation of this paper

Enhancing the role of livestock production in improving nutritional status of farming families: Lessons from a dairy goat development project in Eastern Ethiopia 

Habtemariam Kassa, Ayalew W *, Habte Gabriel Z** and Gebre Meskel T*** 

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Rural Development Studies.
Box 7005, SE-750 07, Uppsala, Sweden.
Habtemariam.Kassa@lbutv.slu.se or Habtemariam_Kassa@hotmail.com
* International Livestock Research Institute. PO Box 5689. Addis Ababa. Ethiopia.
**Freelance Consultant on Human Nutrition. PO Box 1041, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
***FARM Africa. Ethiopia, PO Box 5746, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


Abstract 

 

This study was conducted to evaluate the contribution of a dairy goat development project in improving nutritional status of project participants in two districts of Eastern Ethiopia, and to find out better ways of doing so with on-going and to-be formulated livestock development projects. The over-all study included conducting surveys to examine impacts of the dairy goat development project, nutrition education based intervention, and post-intervention impact assessment. This paper presents some of the findings of the base line survey conducted on 831 households and that of the formative survey undertaken on 228 project participant and non-participant households. In addition to dietary frequency and anthropometric measurements to assess nutritional and health status of farming families, the surveys covered demographic aspects and livestock holding patterns.

 

Results of the base line survey showed widely varying livestock holding patterns and the generally low nutritional status of people in the two districts. The formative survey that compared project participant and non-participant households revealed that despite project intervention mothers were largely unaware of the causes of and remedies for nutritional deficiency diseases, and health and nutritional status of women and children did not vary with participation in the project. It is therefore suggested that if increased milk production and farm income from livestock development projects such as dairy goat farming are to be translated to improved nutritional and health status of women and children, livestock extension messages will have to be complemented with nutrition and health education.  

Key Words: Anthropometry, children, dairy goats, diet, health, nutritional status, women  


Introduction 

The Dairy Goat Development Project (DGDP) of FARM Africa, an international NGO based in the UK, began its operation in Eastern Ethiopia in the late 1980s with the aim of improving the socio-economic and nutritional status of women and children in the heavily populated highland areas of Ethiopia. It recognised the importance of animal products to human nutrition and the role of goat production in improving food availability and farm income thereby in enhancing household food security of the rural poor. To achieve its objective, DGDP was engaged in identifying women's groups, offering them training in better husbandry of dairy goats, and then providing them with first local and then crossbred dairy goats using revolving credit schemes. Right before completing its first phase, an assessment of the socio-economic impact of the DGDP was conducted. It was concluded that the DGDP was successful in increasing milk production and household income of participant households (Bekele and Kassa 1995). But whether this increased income and on-farm milk availability was translated to improvement in nutritional status of women and children remained unknown. As a result this study was proposed and implemented through the collaboration of Alemaya University and FARM Africa, with the assistance of the International Centre for Research on Women, Washington, DC, through a grant obtained from USAID.

 

The objective of the study was to determine whether DGDP has improved the nutritional status of project participant farming families in Eastern Ethiopia where the project had been operational for over five years. The experience gained also shed light on ways of improving the effectiveness of livestock development projects in enhancing household and individual food security in the heavily populated highland areas of Ethiopia. This paper presents the findings of the first phase of the study, i.e. the results of two surveys and the lessons drawn. Parts of the outcomes of the study focusing on the impacts of nutrition education based intervention in increasing awareness of communities about nutritional deficiency diseases have been discussed in Ayalew et al (1999). The processes and findings of the overall study and the lessons to be learnt for designing and implementing livestock development projects for the poor are subjects of a forthcoming paper.

 

Materials and Methods  

The Study Areas

The study was conducted in two districts located in the Harar Highlands of Eastern Ethiopia . The Harar Highlands are among the most densely populated (CSA 1999) and food deficit (Kuma and Mekonnen 1995) highland areas of the country. Over 90% of the population, projected to be 2.4 million in mid 2003 (ZOPED 2001), lives in rural areas, and their livelihood depends mainly on agriculture. The average rural population density stands at 530 persons per square km of cultivated land (ZOPED 2001). Significant variation in population distribution are, however, observed even within the same district, depending largely on altitude and proximity to markets (Poschen 1987).

 

Owing to population expansion, the majority of farmers in the Harar Highlands own smallholdings of less than one hectare (Adinew 1991). Poor soil fertility, drought, crop pests, and feed shortages are farming limitations (AUA 1986; Wibaux 1986) of increasing importance (Mulatu and Kassa 2001). Government policies on land tenure, marketing of chat (Catha edulis) to neighbouring countries, and cross-border livestock trade constitute additional uncertainties. In the face of these limitations and uncertainties, farmers in the Harar Highlands have continued to make adjustments in their livelihood strategies. As a result, the agricultural system has evolved, largely without government support, from grain-based subsistence farming to a chat -livestock-based, market-oriented mixed farming system (Wibaux 1986; Poschen 1987; Mulatu and Kassa 2001). Typical of any mixed farming system, livestock are an integral part of the farm, providing milk, meat, draft power, and manure; serving as sources of cash income; and playing vital roles in the social and cultural spheres. As Sansoucy et al (1995) aptly put it, in such food insecure areas, the role of livestock in enhancing household food security through increased food production and household income cannot be underestimated. As a result, an average family possesses 1 to 2 cattle, few goats and a donkey. The role of goats in providing the highly demanded goat milk is widely recognised, especially by the poor farming households. FARM Africa through its DGDP opted to promote dairy goat farming in the Harar Highlands of Eastern Ethiopia in view of improving the socio-economic and nutritional status of poor women and their children through higher yields of milk and faster growth rates. Two of the major operational districts of FARM Africa were chosen for the study.

Data Collection 

Data were collected using semi-structured key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and base line and formative formal surveys based on structured and pre-tested questionnaires. The practicality of options on the ground, particularly logistical and sociological aspects, dictated that no biochemical assessments would be included. Rather anthropometric measurements to evaluate nutritional status (WHO 1995), dietary assessment to examine marginal deficiencies using 24 hour recall (Gibson 1990), and the Helen Keller International (HKI) food frequency for vitamin A intake (HKI 1993) were used as outcome measures for assessing project impacts.

 

As Peasants' Associations (PAs) are the only administrative subdivisions within a given district, a two-staged stratified random sampling technique was used to select households, the sampling units of the study. Thus 36 PAs in Gursum and 14 in Kombolcha, 4 PAs (3 in Gursum and 1 in Kombolcha) were selected. The base line survey was administered on 803 households randomly selected from these 4 PAs. Then, the formative survey that aimed at comparing project participant and non-participant households covered a total of 228 households. From the list of project participant and non-participant households residing in the 4 FAs, 59  recipients of crossbred goat (those who have received both local and crossbred goats from the project) were randomly selected and formed Group One. Similarly, 103 recipients of local goats constituted Group Two, while Group Three was composed of 72 control households who owned no livestock of any type and were randomly selected from the list. In the first two groups, only those recipients who received goats at least 18 months before the study in 1997 were included. The data collection instrument included household demography; dietary assessment that focussed on children under five years of age, anthropometry on reference mother and child, questions on nutrition and agriculture to the mother, 24-hour dietary recall for the whole family, HKI for the reference child, and clinical examination of mothers and pre-school children for signs of deficiencies of vitamin A and of anaemia. Anaemia was assessed through the presence of paleness in the lips, tongue and eye. History of Night-blindness was recorded through interviews. The nutritional status study involved 1,338 children under five years of age.

 

Data Analysis

 

The data, coded and entered into different data files using the EPI INFO Version 6 software, were analysed using DEMETER Version 2.05 for the 24-hour dietary recall survey, and ANTHRO software for the values of anthropometric measurements (Both EPI INFO and ANTHRO software are now available at http://www.cdc.gov/). The mean frequencies of consumption of vitamin A-rich foods were estimated as per HKI (1993). For anthropometric measurements, the standard deviation scores (Z-scores) were calculated, and the -2.0 standard deviation score was used as a cut-off point for determining under-nutrition. Body Mass Index (BMI), defined as a measure of body mass relative to height, was calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meter squared (Wt/ht2). For both sexes, the Z-score values of weight-for-age (WAZ) that are used as indicators of under weight, height-for-age (HAZ) commonly employed to evaluate stunting, and weight-for-height (WHZ) which are used as signs of wasting, were also calculated so as to make comparisons across groups.


Results and Discussion 

Community level findings from the baseline survey  
Livestock ownership patterns and decision-making in goat production 

Nearly one third (28%) of the households did not own cattle and 85% of the cattle rearing households owned a maximum of two. About 34% of the households did not own goats, and 88% of the goat rearing households owned a maximum of two. Women had extremely limited access to and control over property and earned income to an extent that, in some cases, money to pay for treatment of sick goats had to come from the husbands. Although women were the ones who received goats on credit from the DGDP and were largely involved in their management, it was mainly the husbands that made decisions on the sale of goats and the use of the revenues generated from the sale. Decisions regarding daily milk sale and the use of revenue generated therefrom were, however, left for women even if the husband reserves the right to stop it. Decisions on the species, class, and number of animals to rear, to buy, and to sell are made by the husbands. Similarly, it is the household head that makes decisions concerning major food related expenditures to be made, except for the daily consumables.  

Dietary habits

In 83% of the households, sorghum was the primary staple diet, while combinations of sorghum with maize and sorghum with sweet potato were staples in 13% and 4% of the households, respectively. The mean frequency of consumption of the staple diet per week was 6.6 days. The consumption of foods of animal origin, vegetables and fruits, and those of both pre-formed vitamin A and the precursors was extremely low (Table 1).  

Table 1.  Mean frequency of consumption of various food items of animal and plant origins.

Food items

Frequency (number of days/week)

Both districts

PA1

PA2

PA3

PA4

Staple diets

6.6

6.8

6.5

6.8

6.4

Spices (red pepper)

2.9

1.8

4.1

4.3

3.0

Dark green leafy vegetables

0.4

0.9

0.8

0.1

0.1

Milk       

4.1

3.4

5.0

4.7

4.5

Carrots  

0.1

0.3

0.0

0.1

0.0

Ripe mango

0.1

0.0

0.1

0.2

0.2

Dark yellow or orange pumpkin

1.3

0.5

1.9

1.6

1.9

Swiss chard

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.1

0.0

Ripe papaya

0.4

0.0

1.1

1.1

0.4

Spaghetti/macaroni

4.0

4.4

5.4

2.9

3.3

Eggs with yolk

0.5

0.1

1.2

0.7

0.6

Small fish (liver intact)

0.1

0.1

0.3

0.2

0.0

Groundnut

3.0

2.6

3.3

3.6

3.2

Yellow or orange sweet potato

2.8

1.5

3.7

1.9

3.8

Chicken or other fowl         

0.1

0.1

0.3

0.0

0.1

Amaranth leaves

0.3

0.8

0.0

0.0

0.0

Any kind of liver

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

Sweet potato leaves

0.3

0.7

0.0

0.0

0.0

Meat (mutton, beef)

0.2

0.2

0.2

0.3

0.1

Butter

0.1

0.0

0.4

0.2

0.2

Fenugreek

3.0

4.4

2.9

2.2

1.8

Cod liver oil

0.0

0.0

0.1

0.0

0.0

Foods cooked in oil

1.1

0.9

2.1

1.6

0.9

Linseed

1.9

2.6

2.7

1.1

0.9

Weaning foods fortified with Vitamin A

0.1

0.0

0.1

0.1

0.1

Avocado

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

The mean frequency (in days/week) of the consumption of vitamin A-rich foods was found to be 0.7 for foods of animal sources whereas the weighted total amounted to 1.6, much less than the threshold values recommended by HKI (1993), which are 4 for foods of animal origin and 6 for foods from plant sources. 

Health and Nutritional Status 

The incidence rate of anaemia in mothers during pregnancy was 22.7%, higher than the national level of 17% (CSA 1992; MOH 1995). History of night blindness showed that 14.9% of the mothers had this sign of vitamin A deficiency during their last pregnancy, indicating extremely high incidence. Mothers reported that their index children, who are below the age of five years, had night blindness in 5.0% of the cases. This is higher by five fold when compared to the WHO cut-off point of 1%. It calls for corrective measures, both short term interventions such as supplementation of vitamin A capsules, and long term food-based measures through increased production and utilisation of livestock and plant products.

 

Results of anthropometric measurements showed that for both boys and girls, the incidence of wasting, which is commonly used as indicator of both chronic and acute malnutrition, and measured using WHZ (weight-for-height), was high. All the three parameters, namely WAZ, HAZ and WHZ were relatively lower in infants below the age of 6 months than in the older age groups, which was probably due to breast feeding during this period (Table 2).

Table 2. Under-weight, stunted, and wasted under-five year old children by age group

 

Z-score < - 2.00 standard deviations from the median

WAZ

HAZ

WHZ

Total assessed

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

<6

17

14.4

32

27.1

16

13.6

118

6 - <12

86

44.6

117

60.6

30

15.5

193

12 - <24

130

49.4

161

61.2

30

11.4

263

24 - <36

120

46.0

116

44.4

49

18.8

261

36 - <48

77

32.6

101

42.8

33

14.0

236

48 - <60

54

20.2

82

30.7

34

12.7

267

Total

484

36.2

609

45.5

192

14.3

1,338

It is worth noting that the overall rate of wasting in the survey areas (14.3%) was generally higher than the national rate of 8% (CSA 1992). While HAZ and WHZ values did not significantly differ between boys and girls (P <0.38 and P <0.74, respectively), WAZ values were significantly different (P <0.01). Thus, more girls were under-weight than boys. This might be attributed to the feeding pattern where the cultural norm is that women and girls eat after husbands and boys.

 

The Body Mass Index (BMI) values, assessed on adults over the age of 20 years (WHO 1995), showed that the nutritional status of most adults were reasonably good. About 60% of both sexes, 57% of males and 62% of females, were within the normal range, and the rest were having thinness of various degrees. Though more males were thinner than females, the difference between the two sexes in BMI values was not statistically significant (P =0.08). The results of the community level study proved that the overall nutritional status of farming families was poor, the situation being worse for children, particularly for girls. 

The formative household level formal survey: Comparing project participant and non-participant households  
Family size and livestock ownership patterns 

Family size varied significantly with the level of participation (P <0.001), the control group had the lowest (4.6), local goat recipients were in the middle (5.8), and crossbred goat recipients had highest number of family members (6.1). The average family size for the three groups was 5.5, which is greater than the national average 4.5 (CSA 1999). Project participant households owned significantly more number of goats than non-recipients (P <0.05). This is in line with what would have been expected as the project was designed to serve the poorest stratum of the society. The two participant groups, crossbred and local recipients, did not however vary significantly in the average number of goats they own, 2.8 and 3.1 respectively. But the number of sheep and chicken owned did not vary significantly between participant and non-participant families.  

Consumption of foodstuffs rich in Vitamin A  

The mean frequency of consumption of foods of animal origin rich in vitamin A for all of the three groups amounted to 2.75 days per week, indicating a very low level of consumption despite project intervention whose aim was also enhancing nutritional status of people.  

Anthropometric results  

The anthropometric results, body mass index for adults and nutritional status indicators for children, of participating and non-participating households are summarised in Tables 3 and 4.  

Table 3. Body mass index values for all groups and for each of the three groups

BMI

Description

All Groups

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

< 16.00

Severe thinness

11

4.9

3

6.3

7

6.7

1

1.4

16.00 16.99

Moderate thinness

23

10.3

3

6.3

11

10.4

9

12.9

17.00 18.99

Mild thinness

56

25.2

12

25.0

29

27.7

15

21.4

18.50 24.99

Normal

125

56.0

28

58.2

54

55.2

43

61.4

25.00 29.99

Grade 1 over weight

8

3.2

2

4.2

4

4.0

2

2.9

30.00 39.99

Grade 2 over weight

0

0.0

0

0.0

0

0.0

0

0.0

> 40.00

Grade 3 over weight

0

0.0

0

0.0

0

0.0

0

0.0

Total Measured

223

100

48

100

105

100

70

100

 

Table 4. Indicators of nutritional status of all groups and each of the groups (z-score < -2.0 standard deviation)

Indicator

All Groups

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

Wasting (weight-for -height)

29

16.7

5

16.1

12

16.9

12

16.9

Under weight (weight- for- age)

71

40.8

13

41.9

22

31.0

36

50.7

Stunting (Height- for- age)

69

39.7

12

38.7

23

32.4

34

47.9

 

The differences across groups in the BMI values were not noticeable in wasting, while underweight and stunting appeared to more be severe in the control group than in the first two groups owning local and crossbred goats. Besides, even though the highest percentages of stunting and underweight were observed in the control groups, stunting and under weight were more severe in Group One than in Group Two, indicating that nutritional status did not very much relate to project participation levels.

 

It is important to note that nutritional status is also a function of health status of individuals, a confounding factor not properly addressed by this study as biochemical studies were excluded. It is also possible that the three groups may significantly differ in their health status. The other likely explanation is the milk consumption pattern in the household. Focus group discussions revealed that the awareness of the community members about nutritional deficiency diseases and their relations to consumption of livestock products, and that much of the milk produced was consumed by adults as hoja , traditional tea made often of coffee pulp and leaves and preferably drunk with milk. Consequently, much of the milk produced might not have gone to children and breast-feeding mothers.

 

It might also be because of the larger family size and relatively lesser number of goats provided for each household. It is also likely that the study was undertaken too early to capture improvement accrued by the project using the conventional nutritional assessment methods. Even if the available methodologies to determine nutritional status could not surface out major differences, project participants themselves acknowledged improvements in supply of foods of animal origin as a result of project participation.

 

To conclude, using the conventional nutritional assessment methods, the study has shown that increased dairy goat production was not accompanied with better utilisation of foods of animal origin, especially milk. Thus, considering the role of livestock products in improving nutritional status of women and children, it can be argued that the impact of the dairy goat development project in Eastern Ethiopia could have been much more pronounced if food utilisation aspects were also addressed. It is therefore suggested that livestock development projects aiming at enhancing food security be complemented with health and nutrition education components so that their impact on the nutritional status, both physical and cognitive development, of people would be much more positive than without.


Acknowledgements

 

The research was supported by the OMNI (Opportunities for Micronutrient Interventions) grants programme of the USAID managed by the ICRW (International Centre for Research on Women, Washington, D.C.). We would like to thank USAID for financing the study, and ICRW for the technical support extended to us while conducting the study. FARM Africa has provided the necessary administrative and logistical support while Alemaya University assisted in co-ordination and technical backstopping. We are also very much indebted to farming households of Gursum and Kombolcha districts for their co-operation and hospitality. We owe and share with them the findings of this study.


References

 

Adinew B 1991 The analysis of land size variation and its effects: The case of small holder farmers in the Hararghe highland. M.Sc. thesis. Department of Agricultural Economics, Alemaya University of Agriculture. Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. 150pp.

 

AUA (Alemaya University of Agriculture) 1986 Retrospect and prospects of agricultural research and extension at AUA. AUA, Dire Dawa, Ethiopia. 247 pp (Mimeo).

 

Ayalew W, Zewdie W G and Kassa H 1999 Reducing vitamin A deficiency in Ethiopia: Linkages with a women-focused dairy goat farming project. Research Report Series 4. International Center for Research on Women. Washington, DC.

 

Bekele W and Kassa H 1995 Assessment of the socio-economic impact of the dairy goat development project in Eastern Hararghe. FARM Africa. Addis Ababa.

 

CSA (Central Statistical Authority - Ethiopia) 1992 Report on the National Rural Nutrition Survey, Core Module. Central Statistical Authority, Addis Ababa.

 

CSA 1999 Statistical Abstract. 1998. Addis Ababa.

 

Gibson R 1990 Principles of nutritional assessment. Oxford University Press, New York.

 

HKI (Helen Keller International) 1993 HKI Food frequency method to assess community risk of vitamin A deficiency. HKI, Washington D.C.

 

Kuma T and Mekonnen A 1995 Grain marketing in Ethiopia in the context of recent policy reforms. In: Aredo, D., and Demeke. M. (eds). Ethiopian agriculture: problems of transformation. proceedings of the fourth annual conference on Ethiopian Economics Society, Addis Ababa. pp 203-227.

 

MOH (Ministry of Health - Ethiopia). 1995 Health and health related indicators. Unpublished. Plan and Project Department, MOH, Addis Ababa.

 

Mulatu E and Kassa H 2001 Evolution of smallholder mixed farming systems in the Harar Highlands of Ethiopia: The shift towards trees and shrubs. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 18 (4): 81-112.

 

Poschen P 1987 The application of farming systems research to community forestry a case study in the Hararghe Highlands, Eastern Ethiopia. Tropical Agriculture 1. TRIOPS. Verlag, Langen, Germany.

 

Sansoucy R, Jabbar M A, Ehui S and Fitzhugh H 1995 The contribution of livestock to food security and sustainable development. In: Wilson R T, Ehui S and Mack S (editors.). Livestock development strategies for low income countries. Proceedings of the Joint FAO/ILRI round table on livestock development strategies for low income countries. ILRI. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 27 February - 2 March 1995. ILRI. Nairobi, Kenya, pp 9-21.

 

WHO (World Health Organization) 1995 Physical status: the use and interpretation of anthropometry. WHO Technical Report Series 854. WHO, Geneva.

 

Wibaux H 1986 Agriculture in the Highlands of Hararghe, Kombolcha area. Study of six farms. French Technical Co-operation in the Department of Agricultural Economics. Alemaya University of Agriculture. Dire Dawa Ethiopia. 153 pp. (Mimeo).

 

ZOPED (Zonal Office of Planning and Economic Development) 2001 Annual Report of 2000/2001. Harar, Ethiopia. (Mimeo).

 



Received 10 June 2003; Accepted 15 June 2003

Go to top