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Much of the literature on food security implies that future food production will need to come either at the expense of forests or from intensification of land in ecosystems other than forest. When the definition of food security embraces the concept of nutrition in addition to adequate energy (calorie) supply, then the prevailing attitude that we need to replace forests or ignore them in the food security debate becomes an open research question. This paper questions the view that increased forest conservation compromises food security and investigates the relationship between tree cover and child nutrition. We integrate food consumption data for ca. 140,000 children from 21 African countries with data on vegetation cover to examine the relationship between tree cover and three indicators of nutrition. We find that for the majority of children in our sample, there is a statistically significant positive relationship between tree cover and dietary diversity; a statistically significant positive relationship between tree cover and fruit and vegetable consumption; but no relationship between animal source food consumption and tree cover. Overall our findings suggest that children in Africa who live in areas with more tree cover, up to a certain threshold, have more nutritious diets.
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