Whilst nutrition-sensitive agriculture projects in rural areas of developing countries typically focus on empowering women to bring about positive outcomes, a study from Ethiopia has found a strong association between fathers’ dietary knowledge and dietary diversity for the children and the mother, even after adjusting for father’s education, mother’s education, mother’s nutrition knowledge and other demographic factors.
The study formed part of a project to change varieties of chicken to improve family nutrition. The 2,042 study participants were mothers and fathers in small scale chicken farming families in rural Ethiopia. Both mothers and fathers were asked a series of questions to test their knowledge, for example: What is the first food a newborn baby should receive? At what age should babies start eating foods in addition to breastmilk? Have you heard of exclusive breastfeeding, iron-deficiency anaemia and vitamin A deficiency? How can you make porridge more nutritious for children?
The researchers conclude, “While previous nutrition-sensitive agriculture work predominantly focuses on uptake among women, a large gap and potential remains with fathers’ engagement in household nutrition. Interventions that expand the role of fathers can synergistically improve women’s empowerment and household nutritional outcomes.”
The researchers quote Patrice Engle in 1997: “Women’s empowerment cannot be achieved without equitable contribution from men, especially in their role as fathers.” (Engle PL (1997), The role of men in families: Achieving gender equity and supporting children, Gender & Development 5.2
Ambikapathi R, Passarelli S, Madzorera I , Canavan C, Noor A, Abdelmenan S, Tewahido D, Tadesse AW, Sibanda L, Sibanda S, Berhane Y, Fawzi W & Gunaratna NS (2019), Fathers’ nutrition knowledge is associated with household’s, women’s, and child’s dietary diversity in the agriculture to nutrition study in Ethiopia, reported on Africa Portal
Photo by lead author.