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The impact of crop specialization on nutritional intake: Evidence from farm households in China

PLoS One. 2022 Aug 5;17(8):e0272347. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0272347. eCollection 2022.


BACKGROUND: In the wake of the severe impact of COVID-19 on the food security of the vulnerable groups in rural areas, the issue of how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals 2 aims to “Zero Hunger” (SDG 2) and ensure the food safety of farmers has drawn unprecedented attention. Nutritional intake is generally used as an important indicator to reflect family food security. Under the background that Chinese farmers have gradually changed from the traditional diversified production mode to the specialized production of crops, the main purpose of this article is to explore what are the impact of crop specialization on farmers’ nutritional intake? Could the specialization of crop production be taken as an important measure to ensure the food safety of farmers and achieve the SDG 2?

METHODS: Based on the micro-survey data from 866 farmer households in China, this paper using Seemingly Unrelated Regressions model, Group Regression model and Mediating Effect model to analyze the average and heterogeneous effects of crop specialization on the nutritional intake of farmers, as well as the mediating effect of income. In addition, robustness test and endogenous treatment were performed by using alternative explanatory variables and IV-2SLS method was used to estimate the results.

RESULTS: After correcting for endogenous bias, crop specialization had a significant negative impact on energy intake and fat intake of farmers at the statistical level of 5% and 1% respectively, especially for farmers in mountainous areas. Household income played a mediating effect on the effect of crop specialization on farmers’ energy and fat intake, and the proportion of the masking effect was 8.43% and 8.96% respectively. In addition, household financial capital and social capital have a significant positive impact on farmers’ nutritional intake.

CONCLUSIONS: Crop specialization cannot guarantee the food safety of farmers in terms of nutritional intake. However, when the development trend of crop specialization is irreversible, more attention should be paid to improving the level of various livelihood capital of farmers, especially those in mountainous areas, and to continuously increasing their income to ease and ultimately eliminate the negative impact of crop specialization on farmers’ nutritional intake, which finally make everyone realize the SDG 2.

PMID:35930562 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0272347

By Nevin Manimala

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