Climate, Birth Weight, and Agricultural Livelihoods in Kenya and Mali

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Abstract

Objectives

To examine an association between climate variability and birth weight in Mali and Kenya in relation to the local agricultural specialization.

Methods

We combined health and sociodemographic data from the Demographic Health Surveys for Kenya (2008 and 2014) and Mali (2006 and 2012) with detailed data on precipitation, temperature, and vegetation. We analyzed the association between climate variability and birth weight by using multilevel regression models for the most common agricultural specializations: food cropping, cash cropping, and pastoralism.

Results

There are differences in sensitivity to climate among different agricultural communities. An additional 100 millimeters of rainfall during the 12-month period before birth was associated with a 47-gram (P = .001) and 89-gram (P = .10) increase in birth weight for food croppers in Kenya and Mali, respectively. Every additional hot month in food-cropping communities in Kenya was associated with a 71-gram decrease in birth weight (P = .030), likely because of food croppers’ limited use of modern agricultural techniques. Overall, cash croppers are least sensitive to climate variability in both countries.

Conclusions

Effective climate change adaptation strategies are essential for protecting and improving health outcomes and should be tailored to local households’ livelihood strategies.

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