Julia de Bruyn

Documenting seasonal variation in food resources in low-literacy settings: A study of milk consumption in Tanzania

Doctorate: University of Sydney, 2018
Home mentor: Prof. Elaine Ferguson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Host mentor: Prof. John Msuya, Sokoine University of Agriculture

Short biography:

Julia completed her PhD at the University of Sydney, while working as a research assistant on the interdisciplinary project “Strengthening Food and Nutrition Security Through Family Poultry and Crop Integration in Tanzania and Zambia” (led by Prof. Robyn Alders, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research). Her thesis used qualitative and quantitative approaches to evaluate the contributions of chicken-keeping to dietary adequacy and growth of young children in remote villages of central Tanzania. Julia joined the Natural Resources Institute at the University of Greenwich in early 2018, as a Lecturer/ Researcher in Nutrition. She has previously worked as a veterinarian in Australia, the United Kingdom and on poultry health programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. Her research interests focus on culturally- and gender-sensitive approaches to sustainably enhance diet quality, particularly through improvements to livestock systems.

Project summary:

Linkages between livestock ownership and human nutrition are complex and multi-directional, with the potential for both positive and negative impacts. When single-application dietary assessments are used, there is limited potential to effectively link the consumption of nutrient rich animal-source foods (ASF), which is often infrequent and may fluctuate over time, with nutrition and health outcomes. To support ongoing research into linkages between livestock and human nutrition, there is a need for more effective methods to collect quantitative and qualitative data on both the availability and consumption of ASF at the household level.

A prototype research tool, involving a pictorial record system and standardised measuring cups, will be presented at a multi-sectoral workshop in Tanzania for critically review. A pilot study will be conducted to apply the refined research tool to evaluate access to cow’s milk amongst smallholder farmers of Central Tanzania. This will respond to current knowledge gaps about milk yields amongst indigenous cattle in low-input production systems across seasons, test associations between milk production and individual, environmental and management factors, and evaluate milk access as a predictor of child growth outcomes. Using a sequential explanatory mixed methods design, subsequent qualitative approaches will be used to validate findings through triangulation, and further explore food resource allocation within households.