The Nutrition Transition in Tanzania: Examining Changing Food, Diet, and Food Culture Among Pastoralists and Agro-Pastoralists Open Access

Nagasaka, Hosana Grace (Spring 2021)

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Background: The Nutrition Transition is a term used to describe shifts in diet and physical activity that occur within a global context of agroecological and sociocultural change. Over the past half century, an increasing number of Tanzanian pastoralist communities have been leaving mobile pastoralism and adopting sedentarization, as well as leaving traditional food customs and adapting Western dietary patterns.

Objective: This thesis seeks to understand how various sociocultural drivers are influencing and accelerating the rate of the Nutrition Transition among Tanzanian pastoralists and agro-pastoralists. This thesis also examines how community members perceive this transition is changing traditional food, diet, and food culture.

Methods: Using data collected during 2016–2017 among pastoralists and agro-pastoralists living in the Morogoro and Tanga regions in Eastern Tanzania, the Grounded Theory approach to qualitative research is used to analyze 34 key informant interviews and 15 focus group discussions conducted among extensive pastoralist, extensive sedentary, and intensive sedentary agro-pastoralist communities.

Results: Diets are changing across pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities. Interethnic exchange acts a critical social driver of these changes, and spurs prioritization of child and adolescent school, livelihood training and nutrition education, and religious discourse. These social drivers are not only changing traditional food practices, norms, and values, but are facilitating the emergence of a new food culture among pastoralist and agro-pastoralist communities.

Conclusion: The Nutrition Transition may be in its nascent stage among communities in Eastern Tanzania, but examples from countries further along the transition indicate a troubling trajectory requiring targeted public health interventions. Collaboration and investment in the rural economy and provision of increased outreach, education, and extension services should be prioritized to increase social capital and strengthen, improve, and sustain public health nutrition in these communities. 

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction - Page 1

Introduction and Rationale - Page 1

Problem Statement - Page 3

Purpose Statement - Page 4

Research Objectives - Page 4

Definition of Terms - Page 5


Chapter 2: Comprehensive Review of the Literature - Page 7

Background - Page 7

Justification for Selected Studies - Page 10

The Socioecological Model - Page 10

The Traditional Diet - Page 11

Food and Community - Page 12

Land Settlement and Livelihood Diversification - Page 13

Nutrition Transition - Page 14

Infants and Children - Page 17

Adolescents - Page 20

Women of Reproductive Age - Page 21

Elderly and Disabled - Page 23

Gaps in Research - Page 24


Chapter 3: Manuscript - Page 25

Introduction - Page 25

Population and Sample - Page 26

Methods - Page 28

Ethical Considerations - Page 30


Chapter 4: Results - Page 30

Introduction - Page 30

Findings - Page 31

Overview of Agroecological Drivers - Page 31

Overview of Sociocultural Drivers - Page 33

Food Availability - Page 33

Food Convenience - Page 36

Food Desirability - Page 37

Interethnic Exchange as a Dominant Social Driver - Page 39

Livelihood and Nutrition Education on Changing Food Practice - Page 40

Child School and Education on Changing Food Values - Page 43

Religion on Changing Food Norms - Page 47

The Case for Cow Blood - Page 47

Summary - Page 51


Chapter 5: Discussion and Conclusion - Page 52

Discussion and Implication of Findings - Page 51

Strengths and Limitations - Page 57

Recommendations for Policy, Programming, and Research - Page 59

Appendix - Page 62

References - Page 63

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