The Stabilizing Effects of Sesame Oil Extraction Technologies on Seasonal Fluctuations in Food Consumption and Nutritional Status of Rural Farming Households in The Gambia
Hull, Stephen Gregory
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It has been well documented that women and children in The Gambia are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition. The combination of heavy labor demands on women and a weaning diet low in calories takes its toll on women and children during the pre-harvest lean season. In 1995, the Small-Scale Sesame Oil Production project introduced an inexpensive, manual technology for edible oil extraction, called the ram press, to women in The Gambia. The overall aim of the project was to improve household nutritional security through the adoption of the ram press by women sesame growers. A 13-month study was conducted to evaluate the success of the Small-Scale Sesame Oil Production project. The study involved 120 rural households: 40 households with access to motorized expeller technology (Expeller group) for sesame oil extraction, 37 households with access to manual ram press technology (Press group), and 43 households with access to both technologies (Combination group). Twenty-four hour recalls, food frequency data, anthropometric measurements, and production data were obtained at the baseline and at the post-harvest, peak sesame oil-pressing, and pre-harvest lean seasons. At the baseline, women in the Expeller group had higher mean intakes of kilocalories than those in the Press and Combination groups. After introduction of the ram press, the Press and Combination women reported consistently higher intakes of kilocalories than the Expeller women at all seasons, with the largest differences at the peak oil-pressing and pre-harvest lean seasons. At the baseline, the consumption of kilocalories for Expeller children was greater than that of the Combination and Press children. After introduction of the ram press, this trend was reversed and the intake of kilocalories for Combination and Press children was greater than that of Expeller children at all other seasons. The Expeller children exhibited a marked increase in weight-for-height z-scores at the peak oil-pressing season that decreased to near baseline levels thereafter. The Combination and Press children exhibited a steady increase in weight-for-height z-scores across seasons except for the pre-harvest lean season when their scores leveled off. These results indicate that women and children in households with access to ram press technology experience much less of a seasonal fluctuation in food consumption than those without ram press technology. Findings of this study also indicate that when women are given choices as to which technology is best for them, they will maximize their benefits from the available technologies.
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