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This qualitative study describe the social context of malnutrition in a rural part of the Democratic Republic of Congo and explore how some households succeed in ensuring that their children are well-nourished while others do not. The study identifies four social fields that have implications for food security and child nutritional outcomes: 1) household size and composition which determined vulnerability to child malnutrition, 2) inter-household cooperation in the form of ‘gbisa work party’ which buffered scarcity of labour in peak seasons and facilitated capital accumulation, 3) the village associated with usufruct rights to land, and 4) the local NGO providing access to agricultural support, clean drinking water and health care.