Dairy Cow Ownership and Child Nutritional Status in Kenya
Nicholson, Charles F.; Mwangi, Lucy; Staal, Steven J.; Thornton, Philip K.
Dairy cow ownership has been widely promoted by a number of development projects in Kenya (and other countries in East Africa) for the last two decades, and the country has the largest population of smallholder producers with dairy cows in sub-Saharan Africa. Supporters of dairy development efforts often have assumed that there will be positive nutritional impacts from increased milk consumption by dairy cow-owning households. This expectation has been further strengthened by recent research findings about the micronutrient benefits of animal product consumption. However, the nutritional impacts of more intensive dairying have received relatively little study to date in East Africa. This paper develops a conceptual framework that identifies key pathways through which dairy cow ownership may have both positive and negative impacts on child nutritional status. Using household- and child-level data on dairy cow owners and non-owners in coastal and highland Kenya, two alternative econometric models are used to estimate the impacts of the number of dairy cows owned, controlling for child characteristics, household head characteristics, and other household characteristics. To explore a principal hypothesized pathway through which dairy cows may influence nutritional outcomes, additional econometric models explore the impact of household income on nutritional status. Consistent with two previous studies, cattle ownership per se had a statistically significant positive impact on height-for-age (a measure of longer-term growth) in both regions. The number of dairy cows has a limited impact on weight-for-height, a measure of short-term child nutritional status. In coastal Kenya, however, there is evidence that dairy cow ownership has a positive impact on height-for-age. Household income has limited positive impacts on nutritional status at the coast. In the Kenyan highlands, our results suggest a marginally significant negative impact of household income on both weight-for-height, but existing data do not allow exploration of the sources of this anomalous result. Overall, the evidence suggests that dairy cow ownership per se does not result in negative nutritional impacts of dairy cow ownership, which implies that dairy development efforts have not increased child malnutrition. However, the evidence also suggests that positive nutritional ii impacts expected for more intensive dairying—particularly from increases in household income—may be limited. Further site-specific study of the pathways influencing household nutrient allocation, child morbidity, and labor requirements should be undertaken to inform policy and program efforts to enhance the nutritional benefits of dairy cow ownership.
R. B. 2003-11
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University