More households in Tanzania’s Rufiji district are changing their diets and eating meals infrequently due to food shortages brought on by climate change.

A changing diet and infrequent meals can lead to undernourishment of children and pregnant mothers  and cause poor attendance of children to school.

This is according to a study co-authored by Naomi Jones Saronga from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in the BioMed Central’s Agriculture and Food Security journal.

Saronga is a Visiting Fellow with the Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement (CIRCLE) programme being jointly implemented by the African Academy of Sciences and the Association of Commonwealth Universities.

She and her co-authors, which includes another CVF Alex Zizinga; her supervisor Dr Paul Onyango of University of Dar es Salaam; and her specialist advisor Dr Sari Kovats of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, surveyed respondents from three villages in Ikwiriri ward, which is located in the Rufiji River flood plain and is most affected by climate change.

They asked the villages what they understood by climate change, what impact it has had on their crop yields, how often they eat, the type of food that they eat and how these eating habits compare to the past 10 years.

The study found that in the past 10 years the three villages had witnessed long rainy seasons and long dry periods that lowered crop yields and resulted in them not having enough food to sustain them for the whole year.”

“Reducing number of meals was recognised as the strategy to cope with the food shortage,” said Saronga and team adding that in the past 10 years most villagers have been eating two meals a day, which mostly consist of carbohydrates from porridge at the expense of other nutrients such as protein and vitamins.

“Eating two meals per day instead of three meals can affect the health of vulnerable groups such as children and pregnant mothers and lead to undernourishment. In fact, this also can lead to poor attendance of children to school,” the study said.

Full paper

“I eat two meals per day” impact of climate variability on eating habits among households in Rufiji district, Tanzania: a qualitative study