Making Cash Crop Value Chains Nutrition-sensitive: Evidence from a Quasi-experiment in Rural Sierra Leone
With a strong global commitment to ending food insecurity and malnutrition, policymakers are increasingly grappling with how to make smallholder agriculture nutrition-sensitive. While the need to address these problems on multiple fronts is widely recognized, there is limited evidence on the nutritional impacts of integrated interventions in export-oriented sectors in developing countries. This paper aims to bridge this gap by evaluating the nutritional impacts of an innovative nutrition-sensitive value chain intervention, uniquely designed to address food and nutrition insecurity among smallholder cocoa, coffee, and cashew farmers in Sierra Leone. The diversity scores of household, maternal, and child diets are the main dietary outcomes employed in the study. Estimation of programme effects is carried out using the inverse-probability-weighted regression adjustment, which combines the propensity score method with regression adjustments to correct for selection bias and accommodate multiple treatments. We do not find a positive impact of supporting cash crop production on the diversity of household, maternal, and child diets unless it is combined with providing information on nutrition. Specifically, combining both interventions is found to significantly improve dietary diversity and the consumption of nutritious foodstuffs at household and individual levels, in comparison with non-intervention households. We found improvements in nutrition knowledge and women empowerment to be the main pathways linking the combined intervention to better dietary outcomes. The results suggest that nutrition-sensitive investments in cash crop sectors promise to be an effective way to increase dietary diversity and sustainably reduce micronutrient deficiencies among nutritionally vulnerable smallholder families in high-value export crop sectors.