By Soumya Gupta, Cornell University, 2016
Agriculture based approaches are increasingly being propagated for tackling micronutrient malnutrition. Women constitute 30% of the agricultural labor force in India. However very little research has systematically examined the connection between farming systems and the status of women, that is their level of empowerment, relative to men, specifically in the domain of agriculture. While women’s empowerment influences choices made in the realm of agriculture, it can also influence nutritional outcomes. This dissertation specifically focuses on iron deficiency (ID) in women of reproductive age- group (15-49 years old). Not only is ID the most prevalent nutrient deficiency in the world, but also women of this age- group constitute a vulnerable sub-group of the population in India where the prevalence of iron deficiency anemia is a public health concern. We compare the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), dietary diversity and iron status between three farming systems – landless, food-crop and cash-crop households. This is followed by analyzing the association of each of the following – empowerment, dietary diversity and iron intakes – with women’s iron status. Primary data for this dissertation were collected from 960 households in three blocks of the Chandrapur district. The household survey collected information on household demographics, agriculture and land-use practices, off-farm employment, empowerment and women’s health history. Women’s dietary intake was based on a 24-hour dietary diversity score and a 30-day semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Anthropometric measurements were also collected for two adults from each household – an index man and woman. A 5ml blood sample from women was tested for serum ferritin, serum transferrin receptor, hemoglobin, C-reactive protein and Alpha-1-glycoprotein in order to assess iron status. The non-response rate for the blood-study was 1.25%. We find significant differences in women’s empowerment scores, dietary diversity and iron status between the three farming systems. After household, food security and maternal health characteristics are controlled for, we find that while dietary diversity and empowerment are not significantly associated with iron status, home gardens are. Moreover the intake of iron folic acid supplements significantly enhances iron intakes.