Shibani Ghosh, Peter L. Pellett, Aden Aw-Hassan:
Dietary Pattern and Socio-economic Status of Rural Households in Marginal Areas of North West Syria


1International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Natural Resource Management Program, Syria
2University of Massachusetts, Department of Nutrition, United States of America

The study was conducted in the Khannaser valley, a semi arid area on the fringe of the Syrian steppe, located 80 km south east of the city of Aleppo. It was part of a lysine fortification trial and its objectives were to evaluate the dietary and socio-economic status of households in such marginal areas. Three villages were selected on the basis of using homemade wheat bread (n=98). Interviews were administered in two parts, one week apart and included a structured questionnaire on income sources and a seven-day food inventory/intake questionnaire to estimate household food intake. In the latter, household sizes and exact number of individuals consuming each meal were collected and converted to adult equivalent units using the male adult requirement as reference. This procedure was used due to the common platter system, which does not allow easy reporting of individual food intake. Mean per adult male capita availability of food energy was 2650 806 kcal with 70.1 26.45g total protein of which 65 14% was cereal in origin. The lysine availability was [41.9]mgg protein which is lower than current adult requirements. Estimated protein value of the diet was poor with high levels of cereal protein and low levels of animal (22 13.7%) and legume proteins (2.4 0.4%). Analysis of the socioeconomic status revealed that main sources of income were agricultural wage labour (83% of households) followed by cropping (69% of households), livestock sales (46%), livestock husbandry (12.7%), non agricultural wage labour in Syria (20%) and abroad (23%). Within agricultural wage labour, multiple activities were common (total of 6 activities) and almost 63% of the total interviewed households reported anywhere from 2 to 6 activities per year. The most common wage labour activities included cotton picking (70% total households), olive picking (33%), lentil harvesting (22%) and barley/wheat harvesting (19%). In summary, household diets in Khannaser valley were largely dependent on cereals and the protein value of the diet was marginal. Household income showed a large dependence on wage labour, which was seasonal and unreliable that increased household vulnerability.

Keywords: Dietary pattern, household vulnerability, protein value, rural households, socio-economic status, Syria


Contact Address: Shibani Ghosh, International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Natural Resource Management ProgramP.O. Box 5466, Aleppo, Syria, e-mail:
Andreas Deininger, September 2004