The linkages between food and nutrition security in lowland and coastal villages in the Philippines

E.M. Balatibat

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


Philippinesis endowed with many natural resources but it is also confronted with a climate that annually poses threats to livelihood, food and nutrition security of its populace. High incidence of poverty and a great variation in agro-ecological setting influence food production as well as economic conditions continue to affect the country's food and nutrition security. The seasonal pattern of rainfall causes fluctuations in aspects of life, such as seasonal labor needs in agriculture and fishery, fluctuations in food security and variations in nutritional status. The present study was carried out in two different ecological settings: a lowland area inCentral Luzonand a coastal area on theislandofLeyte(Visayas).

This study was aimed at examining the factors influencing food and nutrition security at the household and individual level and establish the magnitude of food and nutrition insecurity. In this study, child malnutrition was placed in the context of the food security situation and livelihood performance of households with pre-school children. While putting the child malnutrition issues in the wider context of food and livelihood security, a number of research questions were raised and answered in the different chapters.

The first research question dealt with the factors influencing household food security and child malnutrition. Food insecurity and child malnutrition are quite common in both areas but the relationship between the two differs according to ecological setting, which in turn is differentiated by sources of income, living conditions, ownership of assets, and habitual diet. This study reveals that in wage-earning households in the lowland area, child malnutrition is less related to income and food availability than among households in the coastal area, where food and nutrition security more or less coincide. Above the food security threshold, care and morbidity are the limiting factors to nutrition security of households. This implies that while livelihood security is a pre-condition to food security, the presence of both does not always lead to better quality diets of children. Livelihood security may coincide with food security but the two do not automatically result in nutrition security in the population studied. The absence of an association of food security indicators with malnutrition suggests that different processes operate for food security and nutrition security. The relation between income and food security is context- and location-specific, with livelihood strategies as intervening variables.

In this study, there appeared to be a clear difference in the evolution and type of malnutrition between the lowland and coastal area. Biological adjustments in the growth of children were noted. In the lowland area, children are short but have adequate weight-for-height, while in the coastal areas, aside from being stunted, preschool children are also wasted. These findings suggest that in the lowland area, the direct determinants of child malnutrition, which include breastfeeding, complementary food, morbidity and care, are more important than household food security. In the coastal area, high prevalence of wasting points to more prominence of food insecurity as an important determinant of child malnutrition.

The second research question focused on people's ideas about food security. There are gender differences in men and women's ideas of food security. Because of their traditional role as breadwinner, men view food security in terms of stable income (livelihood) and food supply. They consider food security as being part and parcel of livelihood security. Women have broader perspective of food security. Traditionally, women are the homemakers. Their ideas of food security hinge on food sufficiency through proper management of the household's scarce resources.

The third research question dealt with the qualitative changes in dietary pattern and sources of food as indicators of seasonal changes in household food security. Rice is the only staple food throughout the year in the lowland villages, while - in different proportions by season - rice and corn are eaten in the coastal area. The period of relative abundance in the lowland area as well as in the coastal area falls in the dry season. This is reflected in the lowest prevalence of food shortage in both areas during this period. However, coastal villages experience a longer period of scarcity (five months) than lowland villages (three months). While only fifty percent of households reported periodical food shortages, in general, the habitual diets were of poor quality, irrespective of the season.

Research question four focused on the coping behavior of households in the two study areas. In both areas, households use a number of strategies and coping mechanisms to prevent seasonal food stress and meet actual food needs. Actions intended to solve the problem of food security in the long-term include income diversification and mobilization of assets to prevent an impending food crisis. However, my study revealed that diversifying economic activities and/or seeking new ways of livelihood generation have potential only when skills as well as jobs and other resources are available and accessible to the households.

Aside from preventive strategies, several adaptive or coping mechanisms were observed. These include: mortgaging, inter-household transfers, barter, altering food preparation, cutting down on the number of meals, gathering wild foods, and - to some extent - postponing expenditures on health. Apparently, there are differences in coping strategies used by men and women, which can be attributed to their culturally determined different roles in the household. Women are highly visible in activities to meet actual food needs, while men generally dominate in income diversification and resource mobilization activities. The research shows that in both areas type, timing and sequence of actions and strategies of men and women vary according to the conditions and the degree of vulnerability that characterize the household at the start of the food crisis.

Research question five dealt with gender issues. Power relations in decision-making on resource allocation and in productive and reproductive activities of men and women were examined. In both areas, men make more decisions than women. Men, being the head of the household, decide on matters related to investments and livelihood. As part of their repro­ductive role, women decide on matters concerning care and management and allocation of resources related to food procurement, preparation, distribution, and consumption. The study notes that in times of economic hardship and food crisis, women carry out specific coping activities. However, there appears to be a shift in the division of tasks between men and women, when the workload is high and women have to combine reproductive activities and working for the market. Then, men sometimes take over part of the reproductive workload of their wife. Nevertheless, findings suggest that indeed there are unequal distribution of roles and unequal division of labor between the male and female.

The sixth research question focused on the role of the BIDANI program in improving livelihood, food and nutrition security. BIDANI is the acronym of Barangay Integrated Development Approach for Nutrition Improvement. It is a nation-wide extension program working through a network of state universities and colleges. As a program and a strategy BIDANI can serve as a catalyst to enhance the capability and capacity of the different stakeholders to address food problems. The comprehensive and "bottom-up" approach of BIDANI is important for enhancing local livelihood, food and nutrition security. This study shows, however, that the linkages between the three types of security cannot be taken for granted; that the one does not automatically lead to the other.

BIDANI can contribute to decreasing malnutrition prevalence in real life situations. Its various intervention and development projects, including micro-credit, can produce synergistic impacts that improve nutrition. The women's income-generation activities can serve as useful vehicle for the diversification of the livelihood portfolio of the target households, which can have favorable effects on the coping ability of household. However, there are structural factors underlying the lack of livelihood security, as is apparent from the differences between the situation in the lowland and coastal villages, that for BIDANI are difficult to address. Looking at alternatives, integrated development based on the primary sector (agriculture and fishery) must be complemented by employment opportunities in other sectors to reduce poverty. Off-farm employment and the generation of jobs are a challenge for local governments and BIDANI. Being a dynamic program, BIDANI can adjust its focus to incorporate more systematically issues concerning employment and income, family size, and women's reproductive rights and health.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
  • Niehof, Anke, Promotor
  • Kusin, J.A., Co-promotor, External person
Award date15 Oct 2004
Place of Publication[S.l.]
Print ISBNs9789058089823
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • nutrition
  • child nutrition
  • children
  • malnutrition
  • rural areas
  • coasts
  • villages
  • Philippines
  • households
  • individuals
  • nutritional state
  • food security


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