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Dairy Cow Ownership And Child Nutritional Status In Kenya


  • Nicholson, Charles F.
  • Mwangi, Lucy
  • Staal, Steven J.
  • Thornton, Philip K.


Dairy cow ownership has been widely promoted by a number of development projects in Kenya (and other countries in East Africa) for the last two decades, and the country has the largest population of smallholder producers with dairy cows in sub-Saharan Africa. Supporters of dairy development efforts often have assumed that there will be positive nutritional impacts from increased milk consumption by dairy cow-owning households. This expectation has been further strengthened by recent research findings about the micronutrient benefits of animal product consumption. However, the nutritional impacts of more intensive dairying have received relatively little study to date in East Africa. This paper develops a conceptual framework that identifies key pathways through which dairy cow ownership may have both positive and negative impacts on child nutritional status. Using household- and child-level data on dairy cow owners and non-owners in coastal and highland Kenya, two alternative econometric models are used to estimate the impacts of the number of dairy cows owned, controlling for child characteristics, household head characteristics, and other household characteristics. To explore a principal hypothesized pathway through which dairy cows may influence nutritional outcomes, additional econometric models explore the impact of household income on nutritional status. Consistent with two previous studies, cattle ownership per se had a statistically significant positive impact on height-for-age (a measure of longer-term growth) in both regions. The number of dairy cows has a limited impact on weight-for-height, a measure of short-term child nutritional status. In coastal Kenya, however, there is evidence that dairy cow ownership has a positive impact on height-for-age. Household income has limited positive impacts on nutritional status at the coast. In the Kenyan highlands, our results suggest a marginally significant negative impact of household income on both weight-for-height, but existing data do not allow exploration of the sources of this anomalous result. Overall, the evidence suggests that dairy cow ownership per se does not result in negative nutritional impacts of dairy cow ownership, which implies that dairy development efforts have not increased child malnutrition. However, the evidence also suggests that positive nutritional ii impacts expected for more intensive dairying—particularly from increases in household income—may be limited. Further site-specific study of the pathways influencing household nutrient allocation, child morbidity, and labor requirements should be undertaken to inform policy and program efforts to enhance the nutritional benefits of dairy cow ownership.

Suggested Citation

  • Nicholson, Charles F. & Mwangi, Lucy & Staal, Steven J. & Thornton, Philip K., 2003. "Dairy Cow Ownership And Child Nutritional Status In Kenya," Research Bulletins 122122, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:cudarb:122122
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.122122

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Haughton, Dominique & Haughton, Jonathan, 1997. "Explaining Child Nutrition in Vietnam," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(3), pages 541-556, April.
    2. Ahmed, Mohamed A. M. & Jabbar, Mohammad A. & Ehui, Simeon K., 2000. "Household-level economic and nutritional impacts of market-oriented dairy production in the Ethiopian highlands," Research Reports 183002, International Livestock Research Institute.
    3. Haddad, Lawrence & Hoddinott, John & Alderman, Harold & DEC, 1994. "Intrahousehold resource allocation : an overview," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1255, The World Bank.
    4. Engle, Patrice L. & Menon, Purnima & Haddad, Lawrence, 1999. "Care and Nutrition: Concepts and Measurement," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(8), pages 1309-1337, August.
    5. Anil B. Deolalikar, 1996. "Child nutritional status and child growth in Kenya: Socioeconomic determinants," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(3), pages 375-393.
    6. Senauer, Benjamin, 1990. "Household behaviour and nutrition in developing countries," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 408-417, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kabunga, Nassul, 2014. "Adoption and Impact of Improved Cow Breeds on Household Welfare and Child Nutrition Outcomes: Empirical Evidence from Uganda," 88th Annual Conference, April 9-11, 2014, AgroParisTech, Paris, France 170517, Agricultural Economics Society.
    2. Jumrani, J. & Birthal, P.S., 2015. "Livestock, Women, and Child Nutrition in Rural India," Agricultural Economics Research Review, Agricultural Economics Research Association (India), vol. 28(2).
    3. Nyantakyi-Frimpong, Hanson & Colecraft, Esi K. & Awuah, Raphael Baffour & Adjorlolo, Leonard Kofi & Wilson, Mark L. & Jones, Andrew D., 2018. "Leveraging smallholder livestock production to reduce anemia: A qualitative study of three agroecological zones in Ghana," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 212(C), pages 191-202.


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