Nutrition Security in Context of Migration in Southern Province, Zambia

Grants and Contracts Details


This project will examine the relationship between livelihood strategies and nutritional outcome among Gwembe Tonga migrants in Zambia, Africa. Despite decades-long programs aimed at alleviating malnutrition around the world, rates remain high, and are even escalating among some populations. The people of sub-Saharan Africa are at particular risk as a consequence of livelihood insecurity, and in Zambia, where the proposed research will take place, malnutrition rates among children under the age of five are high, with 47% stunted, and 27% underweight, placing them at life-long risk for physical and cognitive impairment. Guided by theories of human adaptability and political economy, and grounded in nutritional anthropology framework, the research aims to elucidate relationships between the human environment (in ecological, social, political and economic contexts) and nutritional outcome in context of rural-to-rural migration, a form of migration that is increasing but is little studied with respect to nutrition and health outcomes. The hypothesis is that migrants will opportunistically construct diverse livelihood strategies based on their ability to take advantage oflocal opportunities, with variable success measured via nutritional outcome. Specific aims of the research are to: (I) use existing data and data to be collected to ascertain livelihood strategies and assess continuity and change in livelihood strategies and nutritional status between Gwembe Tonga in the sending and receiving communities; (2) identifY and assess linkages among available resources, livelihood strategies, food security, health security and nutritional status; and (3) assess the role of age, gender and household position in the relationship between livelihood strategies and nutritional status, both between and within households. The proposed research will include nine months of fieldwork over two years by two senior colleagues and students, and leverages from on-going research on tenure security and sustainability, and 50 years of research on continuity and change among the Gwembe Tonga. It utilizes an exploratory quantitative/qualitative design that is primarily ethnographic, but employs methods from cultural and biological anthropology, and nutrition research, including participant observation of daily life, semi-structured interviews focusing on domains of food, health, and economic activities, and anthropometric measurements of children and adults. Data analysis will link individual livelihood strategies to nutritional outcome, and provide rich description of the context in which strategies are formed, including the availability and constraints on resources, and how and why adaptive decisions are made and activities carried out. The research will add to a body of work on the nutritional consequences of changing livelihood strategies, but is unique in that it combines social/cultural/ecological elements with biological/nutritional elements; focuses intently on within-group variation; and utilizes several levels of analysis, from individual to international. Its focus on adaptive success in achieving nutrition security will have direct policy implications. Its broader impacts are several, including advancing education by incorporating graduate students in all phases of the research, including connection to an NSF sponsored field school in data collection methods; building on existing Zambian/U.S. collaborative networks, and establishing new ones for future research on health and nutrition in rural Zambia; and providing opportunities for local Zambians to develop and build skills useful to their own personal and professional development.
Effective start/end date7/1/056/30/09


  • National Science Foundation: $105,375.00


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