Maize is the most important staple crop for food security and livelihood of smallholder farmers in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, but it alone cannot ensure food security. Cropping patterns must be diversified to ensure an adequate supply and economic access to greater variety of foods for smallholder farm households. This study measured the effect of crop diversification on household dietary diversity in a selected study locale using a survey of 300 randomly stratified farm households in 10 villages located in the Babati, Kongwa and Kiteto districts of Tanzania.
Based on multiple regression analysis, the study found that simply increasing Simpson’s Index does not influence dietary diversity of farm households due to the presence of interaction effect between Simpson’s Index and crop income. It is much more critical and significant to increase the revenue generated from diversified crops along with other socioeconomic endowment and behavioral characteristics of farm households. This is particularly applicable to poorer smallholder farmers who receive crop income less than US$85 per sales transaction and per season. Particularly, marginal and smallholders might be exposed to the effects of crop diversification and crop income toward increasing in their household dietary diversity score.
Under average crop income scenarios, households that diversify their crop production tend to increase their dietary diversity from their existing dietary diversity score at a decreasing rate. However, under below average crop income threshold scenarios, farmers tend to increase their dietary diversity score from their existing score at an increasing rate when they diversify into high-value crops that attract relatively high farm gate values and accrue higher net revenues from the market. Monthly food expenditure also tends to positively influence household dietary diversity, indicating that farm households that spend more on market-purchased food have consistent increases in the their dietary diversity scores at the household level. This study concludes that improving economic access to variety of foods at the smallholder household level by diversifying diets through increased crop diversification should be encouraged within maize-based farming systems of the study locale, through integration of micronutrient-rich foods such as vegetables.