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Livelihood zone

Cost of the Diet assessments are undertaken in specific livelihood zones, defined using the process outlined in the Household Economy Analysis (HEA) method.

Food list

Before data collection begins, a detailed list of all foods (local, imported, grown and wild) available at any time during the year is compiled. This list is used as the basis for the market survey and interview questionnaire.

Market survey

A market survey is conducted in 6-8 markets, representative of the livelihood zone, where the poorest households purchase their food from. Price and weight data of all foods in the market is collected for each season. Market traders are asked questions about annual trends in prices, seasonality and changes in the demand and supply of commodities. These results are converted into a price per 100g which is entered into the software.

Focus group discussions

Focus group discussions (FGD) are conducted in 4 villages in order to create a nutritious diet that considers typical dietary habits. Each FGD should consist of 8 participants; 2 from each wealth group identified by the HEA. All participants should be those responsible for preparing food for the household. The interview questionnaire is based upon the food list generated before and during the market survey and aims to determine how often foods are consumed when they are in season. Questions are based on observations from the market data, comments from traders and responses to the questionnaire. Information is collected on key staples, household food production, ‘normal’ consumption patterns, cultural taboos and wild foods consumed.


Applied constraints are intended to reflect typical dietary patterns rather than economic constraints, as Cost of the Diet is a tool used to illustrate a diet that could be achieved if economic limits were removed.