Food security and social networks: Impacts for smallholder farmers in the Mount Elgon region of Kenya and Uganda
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This thesis investigates the relationship between smallholder farm household networks for food acquisition and agricultural production, food security and dietary quality in the Mount Elgon region of western Kenya and eastern Uganda. Food security and dietary quality were measured through calorie consumption of the female household head in a 24 hour dietary recall, the calculation the World Food Program Food Consumption Score (WFP FCS), and the calculation of the percentage of energy sourced from staples in the diet. Correlations between these indicators support that the WFP FCS is capturing elements of both sufficiency and quality of diet. Subsequent application of Ordinary Least Squares regression determines that both food acquisition networks and technology networks for agricultural production have a statistically significant positive impact upon calorie procurement across the sites included in the study. However, networks for agricultural production appear to operate differently in different locations with regard to dietary quality. Interpretation of qualitative data gathered through interviews with agricultural service sector providers and focus groups regarding these local networks for agricultural production suggests that this might be due to differences in the types of crops promoted and attitudes held regarding food security and dietary quality prevalent in these different localities. Overall, the results suggest that both food acquisition networks and agricultural production networks are important avenues through which gains in food security may be realized. However, development efforts need to be mindful of the crops and attitudes promoted by these networks to secure gains in both caloric sufficiency and dietary quality.