Irrigation and Women's Diet in Ethiopia: A Longitudinal Study

Some agricultural practices, such as irrigation, have the potential to buffer seasonal dietary gaps and thus improve diets, particularly for subsistence farmers but also for rural and urban households that purchase irrigated produce from local markets. While the seasonality of households and children’s diets is well documented, little is known about the seasonality of women’s diets and the influence of irrigation. Using longitudinal data from Ethiopia, this study characterized women’s diet over time and evaluated the potential implications of seasonality and irrigation on women’s diet. Women’s dietary diversity was low (3-4 out of 10 food groups) and exhibited high seasonal variability (P<0.05). Diets were predominantly plant-based, with little consumption of nutrientdense foods, such as fruits and animal source foods. High seasonal variability in energy, protein, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and zinc intakes were observed (P<0.01). Irrigators were more likely to meet the minimum dietary diversity for women (MDDW), had higher energy and calcium intake, and lower prevalence of anemia, than women from non-irrigating households (P< 0.05). No cases of malaria were reported from the three rounds of screening. Our preliminary findings suggest that there is high seasonal variation in women’s diet, but this can be partly offset by irrigation practices.