Effects of agricultural biodiversity and seasonal rain on dietary adequacy and household food security in rural areas of Kenya

Abstract Background Kenya has a high prevalence of underweight and stunting in children. It is believed that both agricultural biodiversity and seasonal rainfall influences household food security and dietary intake. In the present study we aimed to study the effects of agricultural biodiversity and seasonal rains on dietary adequacy and household food security of preschool Kenyan children, and to identify significant relationships between these variables. Methods Two cross-sectional studies were undertaken in resource-poor households in rural Kenya approximately 6 months apart. Interviews were done with mothers/caregivers to collect data from randomly selected households (N = 525). A repeated 24-hour recall was used to calculate dietary intake in each phase while household food security was measured using the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS). A nutrient adequacy ratio (NAR) was calculated for each nutrient as the percent of the nutrient meeting the recommended nutrient intake (RNI) for that nutrient. A mean adequacy ratio (MAR) was calculated as the mean of the NARs. Agricultural biodiversity was calculated for each household by counting the number of different crops and animals eaten either from domestic sources or from the wild. Results Dietary intake was low with the majority of households not meeting the RNIs for many nutrients. However intake of energy (p < 0.001), protein (p < 0.01), iron (p < 0.01), zinc (p < 0.05), calcium (p < 0.05), and folate (p < 0.01) improved significantly from the dry to the rainy season. Household food security also increased significantly (p < 0.001) from the dry (13.1 SD 6.91) to the rainy season (10.9 SD 7.42). Agricultural biodiversity was low with a total of 26 items; 23 domesticated and 3 from the natural habitat. Agricultural biodiversity was positively and significantly related to all NARs (Spearman, p < 0.05) and MAR (Spearman, p < 0.001) indicating a significant positive relationship between agricultural biodiversity of the household with dietary adequacy of the child’s diet. Conclusion Important significant relationships were found in this study: between agricultural biodiversity and dietary adequacy; between agricultural biodiversity and household food security and between dietary adequacy and household food security. Furthermore, the effect of seasonality on household food security and nutrient intake was illustrated.