Skip to main content Accessibility help

The impact of a Solar Market Garden programme on dietary diversity, women’s nutritional status and micronutrient levels in Kalalé district of northern Benin

  • Halimatou Alaofè (a1), Jennifer Burney (a2), Rosamond Naylor (a3) and Douglas Taren (a1)



To examine the impacts of a Solar Market Garden 1-year solar-powered drip irrigation (SMG) programme in Kalalé district of northern Benin on mothers’ nutritional status and micronutrient levels.


Using a quasi-experimental design, sixteen villages were assigned to four groups: (i) SMG women’s groups (WG); (ii) comparison WG; (iii) SMG non-WG (NWG); and (iv) comparison NWG. Difference-in-differences (DID) estimates were used to assess impacts on mothers’ food consumption, diversity, BMI, prevalence of underweight (BMI < 18·5 kg/m2) and anaemia, and deficiencies of iron (ID) and vitamin A (VAD).


Kalalé district, northern Benin.


Non-pregnant mothers aged 15–49 years (n 1737).


The SMG programme significantly increased mothers’ intake of vegetables (DID = 25·31 percentage points (pp); P < 0·01), dietary diversity (DID = 0·74; P < 0·01) and marginally increased their intake of flesh foods (DID = 10·14 pp; P < 0·1). Mean BMI was significantly increased among SMG WG compared with the other three groups (DID = 0·44 kg/m2; P < 0·05). The SMG programme also significantly decreased the prevalence of anaemia (DID = 12·86 pp; P < 0·01) but no impacts were found for the prevalence of underweight, ID and VAD.


Improving mothers’ dietary intake and anaemia prevalence supports the need to integrate gender-based agriculture to improve nutritional status. However, it may take more than a year, and additional nutrition and health programmes, to impact the prevalence of maternal underweight, ID and VAD.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Email


Hide All
1. van den Bold, M, Quisumbing, A & Gillespie, S (2013) Women’s Empowerment and Nutrition: An Evidence Review. IFPRI Discussion Paper no. 01294. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
2. Olney, DK, Bliznashka, L, Pedehombga, A et al. (2016) A 2-year integrated agriculture and nutrition program targeted to mothers of young children in Burkina Faso reduces underweight among mothers and increases their empowerment: a cluster-randomized controlled trial. J Nutr 146, 11091117.
3. Alaofe, H, Zhu, M, Burney, J et al. (2017) Association between women’s empowerment and maternal and child nutrition in Kalale District of Northern Benin. Food Nutr Bull 38, 302318.
4. Institut National de la Statistique et de l’Analyse Economique & ICF International (2013) Enquête Démographique et de Santé du Bénin 2011–2012. Calverton, MD: INSAE and ICF International.
5. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2011) Profil nutritionnel du pays: Republique du Benin. (accessed November 2017).
6. Alaofè, H, Zee, J, Dossa, R et al. (2008) Iron status of adolescent girls from two boarding schools in southern Benin. Public Health Nutr 11, 737746.
7. Trading Economics (2019) Benin – rural population. (accessed June 2019).
8. Burney, JA, Naylor, RL & Postel, SL (2013) The case for distributed irrigation as a development priority in sub-Saharan Africa. Proc Natl Acad Sci 110, 1251312517.
9. Domenech, L (2015) Improving irrigation access to combat food insecurity and undernutrition: a review. Glob Food Sec 6, 2433.
10. Savy, M, Martin-Prével, Y, Traissac, P et al. (2006) Dietary diversity scores and nutritional status of women change during the seasonal food shortage in rural Burkina Faso. J Nutr 136, 26252632.
11. Bhandari, S, Sayami, JT, Thapa, P et al. (2016) Dietary intake patterns and nutritional status of women of reproductive age in Nepal: findings from a health survey. Arch Public Health 74, 2.
12. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2011) State of Food and Agriculture. Women and Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development. (accessed June 2019).
13. Ruel, MT & Alderman, H (2013) Nutrition-sensitive interventions and programs: how can they help to accelerate progress in improving maternal and child nutrition? Lancet 382, 536551.
14. Namara, R, Upadhyay, B & Nagar, RK (2005) Adoption and Impacts of Micro Irrigation Technologies: Empirical Results from Selected Localities of Maharashtra and Gujarat State of India. Colombo: International Water Management Institute.
15. Burney, JA, Davis, SJ & Lobell, DB (2010) Greenhouse gas mitigation by agricultural intensification. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107, 1205212057.
16. Aseyehegn, K, Yirga, C & Rajan, S (2011) Effect of small-scale irrigation on the income of rural farm households: the case of Laelay Maichew district, central Tigray, Ethiopia. J Stored Prod Postharvest Res 2, 208215.
17. Dowgert, MF (2010) The impact of irrigated agriculture on a stable food supply. In Proceedings of the 22nd Annual Central Plains Irrigation Conference, Kearney, NE, February 24–25, 2010. (accessed June 2019).
18. Gordon-Larsen, P (2014) Food availability/convenience and obesity. Adv Nutr 5, 809817.
19. Njuki, J, Waithanji, E, Sakwa, B et al. (2014) Can Market-Based Approaches to Technology Development and Dissemination Benefit Women Smallholder Farmers? A Qualitative Assessment of Gender Dynamics in the Ownership, Purchase, and Use of Irrigation Pumps in Kenya and Tanzania. IFPRI Discussion Paper no. 01357. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
20. Olney, DK, Talukder, A, Iannotti, LL et al. (2009) Assessing impact and impact pathways of a homestead food production program on household and child nutrition in Cambodia. Food Nutr Bull 30, 355369.
21. Namara, RE, Awuni, JA, Barry, B et al. (2011) Smallholder Shallow Ground Water Irrigation Development in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Research Report no. 134. Colombo: International Water Management Institute.
22. Kabunga, N, Ghosh, S & Griffiths, JK (2014) Can Smallholder Fruit and Vegetable Production Systems Improve Household Food Security and Nutritional Status of Women? Evidence from Rural Uganda. IFPRI Discussion Paper no. 01346. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
23. Benefice, E & Simondon, K (1993) Agricultural development and nutrition among rural populations: a case study of the middle valley in Senegal. Ecol Food Nutr 31, 4566.
24. Von Braun, J, Puetz, D & Webb, P (1989) Irrigation Technology and the Commercialization of Rice in the Gambia: Effects on Income and Nutrition. IFPRI Research Report no. 75. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
25. Upadhyay, B, Samad, M & Giordano, M (2005) Livelihoods and Gender Roles in Drip Irrigation Technology: A Case of Nepal. Working Paper no. 87. Colombo: International Water Management Institute.
26. Burney, J, Woltering, L, Burke, M et al. (2010) Solar-powered drip irrigation enhances food security in the Sudano-Sahel. Proc Natl Acad Sci 107, 18481853.
27. Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) (2010) Solar Market Garden. (accessed March 2018).
28. Alaofè, H, Burney, J, Naylor, R et al. (2016) Solar-powered drip irrigation impacts on crops production diversity and dietary diversity in Northern Benin. Food Nutr Bull 37, 164175.
29. Frenken, K (2005) Irrigation in African Figures. AQUASTAT Survey – 2005. Rome: FAO.
30. Moyo, R, Love, D, Mul, M et al. (2006) Impact and sustainability of low-head drip irrigation kits, in the semi-arid Gwanda and Beitbridge Districts, Mzingwane Catchment, Limpopo Basin, Zimbabwe. Phys Chem Earth 31, 885892.
31. Belder, P, Rohrbach, D, Twomlow, S et al. (2007) Can Drip Irrigation Improve the Livelihoods of Smallholders? Lessons Learned from Zimbabwe. Bulawayo: International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics.
32. Burney, J, Alaofe, H, Naylor, R et al. (2017) Impact of a rural solar electrification project on the level and structure of women’s empowerment. Environ Res Lett 12, 095007.
33. Vyas, S & Kumaranayake, L (2016) Constructing socio-economic status indices: how to use principal components analysis. Health Policy Plan 21, 59468.
34. Gwatkin, DR, Rutstein, S, Johnson, K et al. (2007) Socio-economic differences in health, nutrition, and population within developing countries: an overview. Niger J Clin Pract 10, 272282.
35. Kennedy, G, Ballard, T & Dop, M (2011) Guidelines for Measuring Household and Individual Dietary Diversity. Rome: FAO, Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division.
36. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations & FHI 360 (2016) Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women: A Guide for Measurement. Rome: FAO.
37. World Health Organization (1995) Physical Status: The Use and Interpretation of Anthropometry. Report of a WHO Expert Committee. WHO Technical Report Series no. 854. Geneva: WHO.
38. Craft, NE, Bulux, J, Valdez, C et al. (2000) Retinol concentrations in capillary dried blood spots from healthy volunteers: method validation. Am J Clin Nutr 72, 450454.
39. Craft, NE, Haitema, T, Brindle, LK et al. (2000) Retinol analysis in dried blood spots by HPLC. J Nutr 130, 882885.
40. World Health Organization & Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2006) Guidelines on Food Fortification with Micronutrients. Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation. Geneva: WHO.
41. Thurnham, DI, McCabe, LD, Haldar, S et al. (2010) Adjusting plasma ferritin concentrations to remove the effects of subclinical inflammation in the assessment of iron deficiency: a meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr 92, 546555.
42. Thurnham, DI, McCabe, GP, Northrop-Clewes, CA, et al. (2003) Effects of subclinical infection on plasma retinol concentrations and assessment of prevalence of vitamin A deficiency: meta-analysis. Lancet 362, 20522058.
43. Walker, SP, Wachs, TD, Grantham-McGregor, S et al. (2011) Inequality in early childhood: risk and protective factors for early child development. Lancet 378, 13251338.
44. Steiner-Asiedu, M, Abu, BAZ, Setorglo, J et al. (2012) The impact of irrigation on the nutritional status of children in the Sissala West District of Ghana. Curr Res J Soc Sci 4, 8692.
45. Van Liere, MJ, Brouwer, ID & den Hartog, AP (1996) A food ethnography of the Otammari in north-western Benin: a systematic approach. Ecol Food Nutr 34, 293310.
46. Nanama, S & Frongillo, E (2012) Altered social cohesion and adverse psychological experiences with chronic food insecurity in the non-market economy and complex households of Burkina Faso. Soc Sci Med 74, 444451.
47. Villa, KM, Barrett, CB & Just, DR (2011) Whose fast and whose feast? Intrahousehold asymmetries in dietary diversity response among East African pastoralists. Am J Agric Econ 93, 10621081.
48. Narayanamoorthy, A, Devika, N & Bhattarai, M (2016). More crop and profit per drop of water: drip irrigation for empowering distressed small farmers. IIM Kozhikode Soc Manage Rev 5, 8390.
49. Slavin, JL & Lloyd, B (2012) Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr 3, 506516.
50. Miller, DD & Welch, RM (2013) Food system strategies for preventing micronutrient malnutrition. Food Policy 42, 115128.
51. Wouthuyzen-Bakker, M & van Assen, S (2015) Exercise-induced anaemia: a forgotten cause of iron deficiency anaemia in young adults. Br J Gen Pract 65, 268269.
52. Gillespie, S, Haddad, L, Mannar, V et al. (2013) The politics of reducing malnutrition: building commitment and accelerating progress. Lancet 382, 552569.
53. Ndiaye, NF, Idohou-Dossou, N, Diouf, A et al. (2018) Folate deficiency and anemia among women of reproductive age (15–49 years) in Senegal: results of a national cross-sectional survey. Food Nutr Bull 39, 6574.
54. Ribaya-Mercado, JD (2002) Influence of dietary fat on beta-carotene absorption and bioconversion into vitamin A. Nutr Rev 60, 104110.
55. Alderman, H & Headey, DD (2017) How important is parental education for child nutrition? World Dev 94, 448464.
56. Feinstein, L (2006) The Effects of Education on Health: Concepts, Evidence and Policy Implications: A Review for the OECD Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI). Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.


The impact of a Solar Market Garden programme on dietary diversity, women’s nutritional status and micronutrient levels in Kalalé district of northern Benin

  • Halimatou Alaofè (a1), Jennifer Burney (a2), Rosamond Naylor (a3) and Douglas Taren (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed