Better soils for healthier lives? An econometric assessment of the link between soil nutrients and malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa

Ezra D. Berkhout*, Mandy Malan, Tom Kram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Malnutrition, the suboptimal consumption of essential nutrients like zinc, severely affects human health. This burden of malnutrition falls disproportionally heavy on developing countries, directly increasing child mortality and childhood stunting, or reducing people’s ability mending diseases. One option to combat malnutrition is to blend missing nutrients in crop fertilizers, thereby increasing crop yields and possibly the nutrient density in harvested crop products, thus enriching crop products destined for human consumption. But, the effectiveness of so-called agronomic fortification remains ill-understood, primarily due to a paucity of field trials. We hypothesize that, if at all this is an effective strategy, there should exist a causal link between malnutrition and natural variation in the quality of soils to begin with. Until now, data limitations prevented the establishment of such a link, but new soil micronutrient maps for Sub-Saharan Africa allow for a detailed assessment. In doing so, we find statistically significant relations between soil nutrients and child mortality, stunting, wasting and underweight. For instance, a simultaneous increase in soil densities of copper, manganese and zinc by one standard deviation reduces child mortality by 4–6 per mille points, but only when malaria pressure is modest. The effects of soil nutrients on health dissipate when malaria pressure increases. Yet, the effects are fairly small in magnitude suggesting that except for a few regions, agronomic fortification is a relatively cost ineffective means to combat malnutrition.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0210642
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

Fingerprint

econometrics
Africa South of the Sahara
Sub-Saharan Africa
Malnutrition
soil nutrients
malnutrition
Nutrients
Soil
Child Mortality
Crops
Soils
Food
Growth Disorders
soil
malaria
growth retardation
Malaria
Zinc
crops
zinc

Cite this

@article{96e8ac0f632e426d8fed59e946d75bd6,
title = "Better soils for healthier lives? An econometric assessment of the link between soil nutrients and malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa",
abstract = "Malnutrition, the suboptimal consumption of essential nutrients like zinc, severely affects human health. This burden of malnutrition falls disproportionally heavy on developing countries, directly increasing child mortality and childhood stunting, or reducing people’s ability mending diseases. One option to combat malnutrition is to blend missing nutrients in crop fertilizers, thereby increasing crop yields and possibly the nutrient density in harvested crop products, thus enriching crop products destined for human consumption. But, the effectiveness of so-called agronomic fortification remains ill-understood, primarily due to a paucity of field trials. We hypothesize that, if at all this is an effective strategy, there should exist a causal link between malnutrition and natural variation in the quality of soils to begin with. Until now, data limitations prevented the establishment of such a link, but new soil micronutrient maps for Sub-Saharan Africa allow for a detailed assessment. In doing so, we find statistically significant relations between soil nutrients and child mortality, stunting, wasting and underweight. For instance, a simultaneous increase in soil densities of copper, manganese and zinc by one standard deviation reduces child mortality by 4–6 per mille points, but only when malaria pressure is modest. The effects of soil nutrients on health dissipate when malaria pressure increases. Yet, the effects are fairly small in magnitude suggesting that except for a few regions, agronomic fortification is a relatively cost ineffective means to combat malnutrition.",
author = "Berkhout, {Ezra D.} and Mandy Malan and Tom Kram",
year = "2019",
month = "1",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1371/journal.pone.0210642",
language = "English",
volume = "14",
journal = "PLoS ONE",
issn = "1932-6203",
publisher = "Public Library of Science",
number = "1",

}

Better soils for healthier lives? An econometric assessment of the link between soil nutrients and malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa. / Berkhout, Ezra D.; Malan, Mandy; Kram, Tom.

In: PLoS ONE, Vol. 14, No. 1, e0210642, 01.01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Better soils for healthier lives? An econometric assessment of the link between soil nutrients and malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa

AU - Berkhout, Ezra D.

AU - Malan, Mandy

AU - Kram, Tom

PY - 2019/1/1

Y1 - 2019/1/1

N2 - Malnutrition, the suboptimal consumption of essential nutrients like zinc, severely affects human health. This burden of malnutrition falls disproportionally heavy on developing countries, directly increasing child mortality and childhood stunting, or reducing people’s ability mending diseases. One option to combat malnutrition is to blend missing nutrients in crop fertilizers, thereby increasing crop yields and possibly the nutrient density in harvested crop products, thus enriching crop products destined for human consumption. But, the effectiveness of so-called agronomic fortification remains ill-understood, primarily due to a paucity of field trials. We hypothesize that, if at all this is an effective strategy, there should exist a causal link between malnutrition and natural variation in the quality of soils to begin with. Until now, data limitations prevented the establishment of such a link, but new soil micronutrient maps for Sub-Saharan Africa allow for a detailed assessment. In doing so, we find statistically significant relations between soil nutrients and child mortality, stunting, wasting and underweight. For instance, a simultaneous increase in soil densities of copper, manganese and zinc by one standard deviation reduces child mortality by 4–6 per mille points, but only when malaria pressure is modest. The effects of soil nutrients on health dissipate when malaria pressure increases. Yet, the effects are fairly small in magnitude suggesting that except for a few regions, agronomic fortification is a relatively cost ineffective means to combat malnutrition.

AB - Malnutrition, the suboptimal consumption of essential nutrients like zinc, severely affects human health. This burden of malnutrition falls disproportionally heavy on developing countries, directly increasing child mortality and childhood stunting, or reducing people’s ability mending diseases. One option to combat malnutrition is to blend missing nutrients in crop fertilizers, thereby increasing crop yields and possibly the nutrient density in harvested crop products, thus enriching crop products destined for human consumption. But, the effectiveness of so-called agronomic fortification remains ill-understood, primarily due to a paucity of field trials. We hypothesize that, if at all this is an effective strategy, there should exist a causal link between malnutrition and natural variation in the quality of soils to begin with. Until now, data limitations prevented the establishment of such a link, but new soil micronutrient maps for Sub-Saharan Africa allow for a detailed assessment. In doing so, we find statistically significant relations between soil nutrients and child mortality, stunting, wasting and underweight. For instance, a simultaneous increase in soil densities of copper, manganese and zinc by one standard deviation reduces child mortality by 4–6 per mille points, but only when malaria pressure is modest. The effects of soil nutrients on health dissipate when malaria pressure increases. Yet, the effects are fairly small in magnitude suggesting that except for a few regions, agronomic fortification is a relatively cost ineffective means to combat malnutrition.

U2 - 10.1371/journal.pone.0210642

DO - 10.1371/journal.pone.0210642

M3 - Article

VL - 14

JO - PLoS ONE

JF - PLoS ONE

SN - 1932-6203

IS - 1

M1 - e0210642

ER -