Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Linking Agriculture with Early Childhood Development:The case of Gandini Community

Photo: Development Horizons

Child malnutrition remains a big problem for children in Kwale County and despite the statistics on the same lacking, areas like Kinango, Samburu and Gandini seems worst hit. Poor nutrition affects both the physical and  intellectual development of the child concerned. By malnutrition in this case, i look at the lack of vital vitamin and mineral nutrients in a diet as opposed to the Protein-energy malnutrition. Read more on the difference here 

Having worked in the area for quite some time, i noted that consumption of greeny vegetables was not considered of paramount importance in the county. The most valued food stuff was maize. With a harvest of maize crop everyone is considered full and satisfied and its no shock to realize that the stew that goes with it is a mixture of table salt and water. Well in terms of quantity, these ECD going children are getting filled but quality wise, their bodies are just being fed regularly with only carbohydrates.

Its because of these reasons that i thought of introducing the aspect of sack gardening to the Gandini community. It happens to be one of the worst poverty hit areas. Notwithstanding is the fact that the area is adjacent to Moi International Airport. While taking off from the airport,its the area you mostly see with mud-walled makuti houses. I chose sack-gardening bearing in mind that the area gets quite dry and water scarcity isn't a once in a lifetime issue. And sack/container gardens happen to be the least consumers of water.With the help of Plan Kwale education program, i set out to train them on how to go about preparing the sacks and the containers to make them suitable for planting vegetables. The first crop selection was kales, Amaranthus and spinachs. To inculcate the gardening culture, we preferred to have the sacks placed near the nursery school.

The initial demonstration plot.
This we chose to be in the homestead of the chairperson of the Gandini village elders. A sample of kales and spinaches were prepared in the nursery bed and later transplanted  to help convert the theory into practice.

The preparations stage
My colleagues, the chairman  and i (Photographer) inspecting the sacks.

The sample demo plots
Notice the yellowed leaves where there was over-watering in this case.


The results
I left the organization i was working with then and i happen to be getting the progress of the project via twitter and phone calls.To my knowledge as of now, the project has spread to neighboring school and hopefully by mid next year, we will have substantive data to give a success story of how agriculture can be interlinked with Nutrition.




The buck doesn't stop there. The aspect of consuming vegetables for their nutrient value is still minimal in the area. Hence the vegetables farming and consumption gospel has to be preached continuously as  having the vegetables and not consuming brings no difference in the lives the ECD children and their families.

PS:
Have a look at the average nutrient contents in various indigenous vegetables......