Ethnography of Household cultural feeding practices of children under five years in rural northern Ghana

  • Margaret Kukeba

Student thesis: Phd


An ethnographic study of Household cultural feeding practices of children under five years in rural Northern GhanaBackground: Appropriate child feeding prevents nutrient deficiencies, diseases, and deaths in children. However, only 13.3% of children aged 6-23 months in Ghana receive the minimum acceptable diet. Thus, undernutrition remains high in rural northern Ghana, especially among under-fives. This is showing no improvement despite economic development and implementation of globally recommended nutrition & feeding interventions. There is limited context specific evidence about child feeding in rural northern Ghana.Aim:To examine how culture might impact upon the feeding of children under five years of age in rural northern Ghana.Methods: A qualitative ethnographic study was completed between October 2014 and May 2015. Data were collected in a rural Ghanaian community via participant observation and sixty-one ethnographic interviews with mothers, fathers, and grandparents in 15 households, and spiritual leaders are known as "diviners". Themes were developed through inductive analysis of field notes and verbatim transcribed interviews using a framework approach. Results: The content of a child's diet and the pattern of feeding were found to be influenced by the community's notion of food, taboos, and beliefs which originated in a traditional African religion. Shared household responsibility for feeding children and the gendered and age related hierarchy of household decision making also influenced child feeding. Discussion: This study has shown multifaceted taken-for-granted social and cultural influences on child feeding. Whilst mothers are the main recipients of the official public health nutrition and child feeding advice, the communal structures, living arrangements and social interactions support, enhance, and reinforce the community inclined practices that limit mothers' independent decision making.Conclusion:To effect community change and promote uptake of public health nutrition recommendations, a community wide nutrition intervention approach may be more beneficial than the current approach which targets mothers. Furthermore, community and cultural influences must be understood and considered by health professionals if such interventions are to succeed.
Date of Award1 Aug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Callery (Supervisor) & Deborah Fallon (Supervisor)


  • Culture
  • childfeeding
  • ethnography
  • under fives

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