The role of Food Aid in infant malnutrition

Posted on 1 November 2018 by Makhosi Mahlangu

The following study was carried out by Yacouba Coulibaly from the
University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso as part of his MSc thesis.

University of Ouagadougou 

Nowadays, it is known that one of the principal causes of children’s malnutrition is the overall deficiency of nutrients and energy intakes from traditional porridges. In order to solve this problem, production and market based distribution of infants’ local enriched flours have been considered as a solution to prevent malnutrition. In spite of the fact that these products have been put on the market at a low cost, the report shows that these products attract little demand.

Burkina Faso

How can we explain such a situation in an area like Titao, where malnutrition’s prevalence is high? Based on a case study of BAMISA flours, the study evaluated the factors that can explained the low demand in rural areas in order to improve the viability levels of the traditional porridge projects.

The study was carried out in Burkina Faso. It was composed of (3) phases: a bibliography review, a collection of discourses (through semi-directed interviews and focus-groups) and a data analysis. In total: 39 interviews at Titao in 11 CSPS, 14 in the village of Kobouré (Boulsa), 8 in the village of Wardogo(Kombissiri) and 18 focus-groups (composed 4 with men) were carried out.

Bamisa flour

In addition to nutritional interventions’ beneficiaries (mothers of children of age between 0 to 2 years old and pregnant women), the field actors (Doctors responsible of sanitary districts, nurses, agents of community health, associations and NGO and technical services’ responsible) were interviewed.

Sphinx Plus 2 statistical software was used to identify a set of factors which have synergic effects on low demand for local flours in rural areas. The following factors were identified: professional function, instruction level of mothers, food aid, the level of mothers’ knowledges of optimal infants’ feeding practices, the ignorance of local flours, the quality and competition between infants’ flours on the market and socio-cultural factors.

The results of the crossing of variables allowed us to identify three major determinants that would be able to explain the situation of Titao’s BAMISA flours’Artisanal Production Unit. These factors were: food aid, the flours’ price and poverty of revenues.The application of Amartya Sen’s capability approach to the study of two different approaches of food aid shows that classic food aid (distribution of imported products as practiced in Titao) is an important factor that reduce the demand of infants’ local flours and influence negatively the development in rural areas comparatively to alternative food aid (based on the distribution of local flours, as practiced in Kombissiri). Alternative food aid develops the consumption habit of infants’ local flours and then stimulates their demand on the market.

People receiving food aid

In addition, our results showed that food aid has greater impact on human development than the classic developmental one because it allows to expand the beneficiairies’ capability space (set of real freedoms) to live the kind of life that they value. Beneficiaries then move from passive receivers to active agents. They indeed participate to the process and seize opportunities to act. By choosing to prioritize the agency capabilities, if adequate conversion factors like training, accompaniment and trading of infants’ local flours are given to the beneficiaries of alternative food aid, they can be agents to contribute efficiently to the fight against malnutrition. Consequently they become actors of development in their communities