Promoting Kitchen Gardens for Improved Food and Nutrition Security
By Meeta Mathur Head of Health and Nutrition Department, Fight Hunger Foundation
Having attained food security, the major concern in India is household nutritional security, particularly among children, where about 40% are currently malnourished. The habitual Indian diet is cereal based and provides around 70 percent of dietary energy, thus protein and micronutrient consumption remains low. This undermines the delivery of nutrition outcomes.
It is recognized that the poor quality of food and lack of diversity in the habitual Indian diet imposes enormous costs on the society in terms of ill health, lives lost, reduced economic productivity and poor quality of life. Therefore, the need is to ensure growing and use of micronutrient rich food crops by making economically weaker section of our society, empowered (nutritionally and financially), and to help them grow, consume and sell farm products for improved food and nutrition security at household level.
Action Against Hunger- Fight Hunger Foundation works for marginalized communities across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra with the aim to prevent and treat malnutrition. AAH works with existing government health workers and systems, building local capacities.
The focus on community engagement and behavior change activities aiming on learning by doing, empowering the communities and bring in change that is not temporary but long term which is more sustainable. And one such attempt towards achieving sustainability is - Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture.
PROMOTING OF NUTRITION GARDENS FOR IMPROVING DIETARY DIVERSITY AND FOOD SECURITY
Nutrition gardens are an effective method in fighting against micronutrient deficiencies as local communities produce and consume diversified food products, adapted and chosen by them. This approach also recognizes the social significance of food and highlights the multiple benefits associated with dietary diversity. It also supports people to examine their own diet as a whole according to their preferences, their lifestyle, their needs and their activities.
We have developed 157 Nutrition Gardens in Baran and 153 in Madhya Pradesh in the last one year.
The approach focused on better land and water utilization for maximizing productivity without compromising the environmental balance. The technical support from Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), an extension wing of Agricultural University was sought. Initially the agriculture experts from KVK trained FHF staff and key people from the community and the training was then cascaded down in the community.
The households with severe acute malnutrition and AWCs (anganwadi centre) were prioritized and trained & supported to develop nutrition gardens in their backyards. The tippy taps (hand washing stations) were installed close to the gardens to utilize the excess water.
The key interventions focused on improving cropping sequence, land management, use of traditional seeds and seed preservation and use of traditional local crop variety. The nutrition gardens have led to increased availability of vegetables thereby improving diet diversity, and reduced dependence on markets.
The nutrition gardens we promote are small (100 to 200 sq mtrs depending on the household) but vital source of income for rural community. The vegetables and fruits produced supplement the required food & nutrition. The produce in excess of family requirements is marketed, thus augmenting their income.
The technical assistance and inputs are provided to establish and promote nutrition gardens with 50 households in the project area. The micronutrient-rich vegetables are selected on the basis of nutritional value, cultural acceptability, seasonal availability and ease of cultivation in the areas of operation.
WHAT MAKES FIGHT HUNGER FOUNDATION UNIQUE
With a strong focus on prevention and treatment of malnutrition in children under five years of age, our thematic areas of work include Early Child Development, Nutrition, Health Care, Water Sanitation and Hygiene, Food Security and Livelihood, Mental Health and Care Practices and Adolescents.
We have an integrated approach while dealing with the core issue of prevention and cure of malnutrition, looking at a sustainability, behavior change and creating a linkage with the government entitlements.
We seek your support in developing kitchen gardens, we will be able to display a working model for creating nutrition security in the families of malnourished children. We believe this will be a fantastic proof of concept that Fight Hunger Foundation can look at scaling up at a later date.