The project is promoting the cultivation of local leafy vegetables as a way of increasing crop diversity and encouraging a balanced diet. The retention and expansion of crop diversity on both farms and in domestic gardens contribute to a healthy environment and also improve the stability of agricultural production. At the time, a diverse diet helps to improve health.
The project is teaching members of local farming groups how to produce and market high-quality seed from local leafy vegetables; in addition, it is also documenting information on their cultivation, marketing and consumption. As well as increasing the availability of traditional vegetable varieties at local markets, the project is also improving the availability of high-quality seed at the regional level. This in turn will increase the consumption of nutritious foods and so help to improve diets.
There is a growing consensus that biodiversity in agricultural production combined with a varied diet significantly contribute to efforts to combat malnutrition. A lack of food diversity is a significant factor in the “hidden hunger” in developing countries where meals often consist of starchy basics and lack nutritious foods such as animal protein, fruit and vegetables. By increasing the variety of vegetables grown, the beneficiaries have access to a rich source of natural vitamins and nutrients and this helps them eat a balanced diet.
Initial findings from research in the project region have shown poor growth rates for many children under 2 years of age. In addition, some 25% of women of childbearing age are overweight or obese as a result of malnutrition. This is despite the fact that Vihiga County has relatively high biodiversity making it an ideal location for the project.
A total of 5,720 mothers of young children are benefiting from nutritional advice; they are expanding their understanding of a balanced diet and so are improving their health. In addition, 175 members of the farming community (of which 67% are women) are benefiting from the expertise provided by our local partner organisation “WeRATE” on how to produce seeds from leafy vegetables. The project is also providing 30 selected individuals from NGOs, the Ministries of Health and Agriculture and “Community Health Volunteers” with specialist knowledge on the importance and implementation of agricultural initiatives designed to ensure a balanced diet.
- Document detailed local knowledge of traditional leafy vegetables and promote their production, cultivation, sale and consumption by providing richly illustrated teaching material developed by Bioversity International and so making it accessible to people with little education.
- Provide training for local “Community Health Volunteers”, who use training material containing information on locally available vegetables to teach mothers of young children about the benefits of a balanced diet.
- Provide training in the production of seed from local leafy vegetables, the use of ecological methods in vegetable gardens and the marketing of seed and products at markets and in schools and restaurants.
- Set up advice centres for farming families where information and training can be offered to communities on the cultivation of different vegetable varieties and the benefits of a balanced diet.
The activities are delivered by local organisations working in cooperation with the relevant communities. This will enable local communities to take over responsibility for the activities and continue them after the project has ended. An exchange programme with neighbouring farmer groups will facilitate the exchange of information on how to set up advice centres. This exchange will also enable the results of the project to be disseminated more widely and made available in other locations and after the completion of this phase.