PLoS ONE (Jan 2021)

Vulnerability of agriculture to climate change increases the risk of child malnutrition: Evidence from a large-scale observational study in India.

  • Bidhubhusan Mahapatra,
  • Monika Walia,
  • Chitiprolu Anantha Rama Rao,
  • Bellapukonda Murali Krishna Raju,
  • Niranjan Saggurti

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 16, no. 6
p. e0253637


Read online

IntroductionThe impact of climate change on agriculture and food security has been examined quite thoroughly by researchers globally as well as in India. While existing studies provide evidence on how climate variability affects the food security and nutrition, research examining the extent of effect vulnerability of agriculture to climate change can have on nutrition in India are scarce. This study examined a) the association between the degree of vulnerability in agriculture to climate change and child nutrition at the micro-level b) spatial effect of climate vulnerability on child nutrition, and c) the geographical hotspots of both vulnerability in agriculture to climate change and child malnutrition.MethodsThe study used an index on vulnerability of agriculture to climate change and linked it to child malnutrition indicators (stunting, wasting, underweight and anaemia) from the National Family Health Survey 4 (2015-16). Mixed-effect and spatial autoregressive models were fitted to assess the direction and strength of the relationship between vulnerability and child malnutrition at macro and micro level. Spatial analyses examined the within-district and across-district spill-over effects of climate change vulnerability on child malnutrition.ResultsBoth mixed-effect and spatial autoregressive models found that the degree of vulnerability was positively associated with malnutrition among children. Children residing in districts with a very high degree of vulnerability were more like to have malnutrition than those residing in districts with very low vulnerability. The analyses found that the odds of a child suffering from stunting increased by 32%, wasting by 42%, underweight by 45%, and anaemia by 63% if the child belonged to a district categorised as very highly vulnerable when compared to those categorised as very low. The spatial analysis also suggested a high level of clustering in the spatial distribution of vulnerability and malnutrition. Hotspots of child malnutrition and degree of vulnerability were mostly found to be clustered around western-central part of India.ConclusionStudy highlights the consequences that vulnerability of agriculture to climate change can have on child nutrition. Strategies should be developed to mitigate the effect of climate change on areas where there is a clustering of vulnerability and child malnutrition.