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These associations are similar in magnitude to those between household production diversity and dietary diversity. The researchers also found that household and community production diversity is especially important for some products, particularly dairy, but also fruits and vegetables.

The study also revealed an association between the number of traders selling food and consumption of non-staple foods; in markets with more than twenty food sellers, the likelihood that a child consumes a non-staple food group rises by about 12 percentage points.

While rural Ethiopia is agriculturally diverse, the study sites are all situated in poor, food-insecure localities where even the relatively better off are poor in absolute terms. Prices for non-staple foods in almost all survey sites were high: on an average, the cost of a calorie from a non-staple food is 12 times higher than a calorie from the cheapest staple. “Those findings suggest that poverty and high prices are major constraints on the ability of markets to improve rural diets,” says Stifel.

“Our results make us cautious about the likely effects of farm-level diversification programs because access to healthy foods is not the only problem. We do, however, find some indirect evidence that dairy and fruit and vegetable promotion might improve children’s consumption of these products specifically,” Hoddinott said. “And some relatively nutritious foods, such as legumes, nuts, and some fruits and vegetables, are relatively affordable, and perhaps underappreciated by parents with limited nutritional knowledge.”

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