For many years it has been understood that three different factors contribute to malnutrition in poor populations – a lack of nutritious foods, diseases, such as diarrhoeal disease in infants, and a lack of care. While we associate agriculture most closely with the first, agricultural practices may also contribute to disease, as livestock and humans share many similar pathogens, while the role which women play in providing agricultural labour may compete with the care of infants. However, most efforts by agricultural researchers to address malnutrition have focused on improving food production, and specifically the supply of calories to populations, by improving yields of high energy crops like cereals. Meanwhile, in the health sector, nutritionists have been focusing on identifying and delivering the right set of nutrients to malnourished populations, through food supplementation and fortification of staple energy foods with key micronutrients like vitamin A, zinc and iron.
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