United States International Agency’ (USAID) has partnered with key stakeholders in the agriculture sector to improve the nutrition and dietary habits of at least 30,000 households in the country.
The USAID funded Feed the Future Kenya Crops Market systems (KCDMS) has been engaging farmer organizations and private sector players working towards transforming dietary behaviours and building resilience of vulnerable families.
The Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems (KCDMS) activity is a USAID project designed to increase agricultural production and reduce poverty and malnutrition in Kenya by fostering competitive, inclusive and resilient markets systems in horticulture and Dairy sectors.
The programme encourages targeted households to consume diverse and nutritious diets to address malnutrition cases and reduce risks of non-communicable diseases
However, many resources deprived people are unaware of the healthy diets and consume insufficient nutrient rich food leading to micronutrient deficiencies.
Brenda Aluda, an expert in drought tolerant crops and poultry in Agri nutrition in the KCDMS programmes says the exercise was rolled out in 12 Counties including Kitui, Kakamega, Makueni, Taita Taveta, Kisii, Siaya, Migori, Busia, Bungoma, Homabay, Kisumu and Vihiga to cushion the macroeconomic shock and promote nutrition security.
She explained that through the project they have worked on various interventions such as training and also using technology such as climate smart agriculture interventions to increase resilience and improve agricultural capacity through production, consumption and marketing of nutritious foods.
“We have been working through partners like the Anglican Development Services (ADS) in Eastern and Western who have reached over 30,000 households to promote dietary diversity through food security and reaching out to ensure people are eating healthy”, Aluda said
She noted that the main challenge has been farmers not having the correct dietary diversity in what they consume and thus the reason for the feed the future funded Programme was working to ensure households are eating healthy and correct foods that will improve their nutrition
“We are promoting technologies such as zipping tools which are important for increasing production of pumpkins, fruits and vegetables and we are also promoting the hermetic bags and drying of vegetables”, he said.
Aluda further noted that they have been encouraging farmers to plant a lot of vegetables during the rainy season and once they harvest, they dry them carefully and they can be used during the drier period when the vegetables are expensive and not readily accessible.
The KCDMS, Aluda said, has also been promoting solar irrigation kits which farmers share among households around them, being able to access water for irrigation and this allows them to grow the crops throughout the year.
Sam Nkoile, from the ADS Western region said they have been training farmers who become ToTs on matters nutrition and is currently working with a target of reaching 15,600 farmers on Agri nutritional messages in Kisumu and Siaya
“Our main focus is to bring behavior change, western region has good climate for production but only produce maize, forgetting the Agri nutrition component such as eating a balanced diet”, he said
Nkoile explained that they are training on 14 topics that involve Agri nutrition using a “Community Dialogue Card” that has over 10 food groups and encourage and sensitize the communities and farmers to at least consume varieties from 5 food groups.
“We have been able to train farmers on the 10 food groups, food types at farm level. They are the common products that farmers do not pay much attention to such as leafy vegetables, fruits. we are also distributing nutritional dialogue cards with messages to breastfeeding mothers and also pregnant women”, he said.
27-year-old Collins Jumba from Vihiga and a beneficiary of the KCDMS said he has been planting different types of traditional vegetables on his 1/8th piece of land and it has been giving him a livelihood together with his young family.
He added that he started planting vegetables after clearing high school in 2017 and after being trained by ADS on Agri nutrition he is able to feed his young family and also the community around.
“I make money through these traditional vegetables since I am the one who sells to households around this village. I sell a bunch of varieties of vegetables at Ksh 50 bob and in overall I make around Ksh 25,000 every two months after harvesting at least 12 bags vegetables”, he said.
Jumba who says that he has become one of the ToTs after receiving the training on Agri nutrition production and goes round Vihiga town giving training to farmers on how to plant various vegetables and fruits that would increase nutrition as well as interacting with his fellow youths who have been trained in order to source for better markets for their vegetables as a group.
The African leafy vegetables that Jumba grows on his land are Managu, Terere, Amaranth. Sageti, Kanzira, Mitoo and also fruits namely pawpaw, strawberries passion fruits
Emmanuel Mutie who works with ADS in the Eastern region said that through the USAID, Feed the Future funded project, they are training Village Based Advisors (VBA) to guide farmers on Agri nutrition.
We need to keep the nutrition diversity and make it sustainable by working with many partners from land preparation using deep tillage technology which is highly recommended all the way to marketing “, he said adding that the biggest challenge with Agri nutrition has been the attitude where most Kenyans believe that if there is no maize there is no food security.
Mutie confirmed that by working with USAID and other organizations such as churches to create awareness and help the farmers, most have been able to understand that for food security to exist people need to consume different food groups.
By Wangari Ndirangu