Amy Webb Girard ------ Understanding the Drivers of Diet Change and Food Choice among Tanzanian Pastoralists
9:36 AM - 9:44 AM
Fri Jun 29, 2018
Adlon 1



Pastoralists represent more than 300-600 million people globally. In response to increasing environmental, social, and political pressures, pastoral communities are shifting to more sedentary livelihood strategies (sedentarization) - a process shown to adversely impact both maternal and child nutrition. To explore contributors to diet change in transitioning cattle-keeping communities we conducted a longitudinal mixed methods study to document factors driving changes in food availability, affordability, and valuation. Research was conducted in six villages representing different stages of sedentarizaton across two livelihood zones in Tanga and Mvomero, Tanzania.


From February to October 2017, we conducted two rounds of qualitative data collection using a grounded theory approach and three rounds of market surveys using the Cost of Diet approach in six villages in Handeni and Mvomero, Tanzania. Sites were purposively selected to include extensive pastoral, extensive sedentary and intensive sedentary communities. In total we conducted 47 in-depth interviews, 52 key informant interviews, and 38 focus group discussions. Respondents were primarly Massai, Zigua, Pare, or Mburu ethnic groups. Interviews and focus group discussions were conducted in Kiswahili or the local language, and translated into English during the transcription process. We used MAXQDA to code data and constant comparative analysis to examine findings across sedentarization patterns.

Findings and Interpretations

Analysis of market surveys using the Cost of Diet approach revealed that, for the poorest households in Tanga, 63.3 percent of household income was required to afford a diet meeting energy requirements, an additional 30.1 percent of income to attain a nutritious diet (energy plus protein, fat, and micronutrients), and an additional 9.4 percent for a nutritious diet that reflects local food habits. In Mvomero, the poorest households would need to allocate 55.5 percent of household income to meet basic energy requirements, an additional 39.7 percent to meet protein and micronutrient needs, and another 4.7 percent to obtain a nutritious diet meeting local food habits. Qualitative research identified food affordability and seasonal availability as key determinants of immediate /short-term food choices. Drivers of longer-term diet change included: 1) livelihood diversification in response to land conflicts and diminishing crop and livestock yields under climate pressure, 2) cross-cultural transfer of diet practices (foods and cooking practices) due to increased inter-tribal interactions, including intermarriage, 3) pressures from children exposed to new diet options through formal schooling, and 4) shifting roles and time allocation of women as a result of greater availability of income generating opportunities in sedentary communities.          


Multiple factors, many linked to transitioning livelihoods in response to climatic and other changes, are contributing to changing diet patterns in pastoral communities. We are currently analyzing the second round of qualitative data to more fully elaborate those prominent influencers of diet change and distinguishing how these differ depending on sedentarization pattern. Our work will ultimately lead to the development of a theory of diet change in the pastoral context and a framework for policy and program action.

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Amy Webb Girard Emory University

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