The relationship between forest cover and diet quality: a case study of rural southern Malawi

Charlotte Hall (Lead / Corresponding author), Jennie I. Macdiarmid, Robin B. Matthews, Pete Smith, Stephen F. Hubbard, Terry P. Dawson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    18 Citations (Scopus)
    142 Downloads (Pure)


    The importance of forests in supporting the well-being of poor rural communities cannot be overstated, not only for improving food security but also for biodiversity conservation. For many people living in developing regions of the world, forests provide healthy and nutrient-dense foods which can improve overall diet quality and act as a safety net during times of hardship. Forests can also provide a source of income and facilitate certain agricultural practices, potentially allowing for poverty alleviation and mitigation. This study examined whether there was a relationship between forest cover and diet quality at the household level in rural southern Malawi. Nutrition data for 2084 households, collected as part of the 2010/11 Third Integrated Household Survey for Malawi (IHS3), were compared with a satellite-based land-cover map of Malawi. Households located in areas with a high percentage forest cover had significantly improved vitamin A adequacy compared to households in less forested areas. Also, vitamin A intake was significantly improved by consumption of wild plant foods. Forest cover was not associated with any other indicators of diet quality, but a number of social and demographic factors were significant determinants, including household size, education and access to markets. Further investigation of these associations is imperative at a time when forests are being cleared at an alarming rate to make way for agricultural production.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)635-650
    Number of pages16
    JournalFood Security
    Issue number3
    Early online date20 May 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019


    • Diet quality
    • Dietary diversity
    • Forests
    • Malawi
    • Micronutrient intake
    • Wild foods

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Food Science
    • Development
    • Agronomy and Crop Science


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