The relationship between forests and freshwater fish consumption in rural Nigeria

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Nigerians depend on fish for maintaining diverse and healthy diets. Fish are a key source of protein and micronutrients, both of which are important for healthy diets. Some research has shown that forests provide important ecosystem functions that support the productive capacity and sustainability of inland fisheries. Our study aims to empirically assess the relationship between forest cover around rivers and fish consumption. We use data from the Living Standards Measurement Survey (LSMS) and spatially merge household and village data with forest cover and river maps. We estimate the relationship between forest cover around rivers and average village fresh fish consumption, while also accounting for other socio-economic and geographical determinants. We find that that the density of forest cover around rivers is positively and significantly correlated with village consumption of fresh fish. Our results suggest that forests influence the consumption of fresh fish by improving the productivity of inland fisheries and increasing the availability of fish. Aquatic habitats tend to be overlooked in debates on land use and food production, and yet can be critically important sources of nutrient-rich foods that are limited in rural diets in developing countries, particularly for the poor. Clearing forests for agriculture in order to produce more agricultural crops might have the unintended consequence of reducing another important food source.

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