FoodSecure Working Paper Series issue:30 pages:1-80
This paper reviews case study literature on the role of culture, religion and traditional knowledge as drivers of food and nutrition security in developing countries. Various channels of impact are discussed, paying particular attention to the channel of health seeking behaviour. We document how culture, religion and traditional knowledge shape local diets, food preferences, intrahousehold
food distribution patterns, child feeding practices, food processing and preparation techniques and health and sanitation practices. Although these effects are inherently localized and context-specific, some common observations emerge from the literature. The knowledge embedded in traditional food systems and traditional medicine can contribute to the improvement of food and nutrition security and public health, but is currently under-researched and underutilized. Inconsistencies between local and biomedical views on food and health restrict the
effectiveness of information campaigns and public health care services. Nevertheless, local beliefs and practices appear to be adaptive, accommodating biomedical food and health information and practices in certain cases. Overall, the literature indicates that culture, religion and traditional knowledge deserve a more prominent place in food and nutrition security research and policy making.