Human Ecology

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 151–187 | Cite as

Nutritional consequences of the transformation from subsistence to commercial agriculture in Tabasco, Mexico

  • Kathryn G. Dewey


Recent changes in the area of the Plan Chontalpa in Tabasco have greatly reduced the production of subsistence crops by rural families, resulting in decreased crop diversity and a concomitant increase in the degree of dependence on outside sources of food. Results from a nutrition survey of 149 families demonstrate that dietary diversity, dietary quality, and nutritional status of preschool children are negatively associated with lower crop diversity and increased dependence on purchased foods. Dietary deterioration is illustrated by the negative relationship found between nutritional status and increased sugar consumption. The assumption that a rise in income accompanying the adoption of commercial production will automatically lead to improved nutrition is challenged: income levels were not found to be consistently related to nutritional status. Children of families that have converted to cattle production, despite greater land availability and family incomes, do not have improved nutritional status. In the study area, where wages are low and food prices are very high, the value of a higher degree of self-sufficiency in food is recognized, yet families continue to switch to cash crops due to the environmental, economic, and time constraints imposed by the system of commercial agriculture in which they participate. The solution is not to return to traditional subsistence farming, however, but to determine under what conditions a more progressive form of agricultural change can occur.

Key words

subsistence agriculture nutrition cash-crop agriculture cattle production agrarian change Tabasco, Mexico ejidos 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn G. Dewey
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NutritionUniversity of CaliforniaDavis

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