Deforestation has a long-term negative effect on nutrition, suggests a new study

lunedì 3 febbraio 2014
A recently published paper ‘Dietary quality and tree cover in Africa’ claims to have found a clear linkage between areas of Africa with tree cover and better diet quality. According to the paper published in the journal Global Environment Change, children living in these areas tend to have a more nutritious diet when compared to those living in cities or areas with little tree cover.
Considering that worldwide, approximately 870 million people do not have enough to eat, and more than two billion suffer from micronutrient deficiency, or “hidden hunger,” according to UN food agencies, this new evidence could boost the role that forests play in the fight against food insecurity.
With dietary data from demographic health surveys of 93,000 children between the ages of one and five from 21 African countries that were completed during the period 2003–2011, the study explores how tree cover might influence the nutritional quality of children's diets.
Three possible pathways are noted as being most likely, bearing in mind that children below 12 months tend to be heavily dependent on breast milk or formula and thus have limited diets
  1. people living near forests could have greater access to nutritious wild foods than people living in other ecosystems;
  2. households that plant or harvest agro-forests on their land may benefit from increased access to fruits and nuts from trees;
  3. it is possible that the agricultural techniques used in more forested areas, particularly shifting cultivation, might be more conducive to diversified and nutritious diets since such practices often involve complex mosaics of multiple crops.
However, while the researchers have found clear evidence linking tree cover and indicators of diet quality, they we are not able to determine the drivers of this relationship.
What is clear according to the the study, however, is the fact that for any of these possible pathways to result in differences in diets and nutrition, there would also have to be some accompanying market imperfection that prevents people in all places from having the same market-mediated access to nutritious foods.

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