According to Smart Survey Report (2019), one in every five children (25.6%) in Turkana County is suffering from acute malnutrition. One of the main underlying causes is the inability to access a diversified diet. The survey revealed that only 19.5% of the households in the county consumed food from more than five food groups.
Lack of enough food has contributed to the endless circle of high malnutrition rates in the county. Increasing food diversity could be attained through multisectoral approaches including support of the kitchen gardens.
Kitchen gardens are essentially small gardens around homes where vegetables meant for home consumption can be grown. Kitchen gardens are usually managed by mothers of a household. Because of their size, kitchen gardens are easy to manage; they require less water and effort to effectively manage.
Africare is supporting the uptake of kitchen gardens among mothers in Turkana’s Turkwel and Katilu wards. Through lead mothers, Africare is able to create interest around kitchen gardens among mothers in the community.
Each lead mother has 14 mothers behind them. The lead mothers use their own kitchen gardens to teach and influence the other 14 women to establish their own kitchen gardens for purposes of diversifying their household diets. Therefore, lead mothers play an important role of ensuring the multiplier effect of establishing kitchen gardens is achieved.
The potential that kitchen gardens have in ending malnutrition cannot be underestimated. They increase household access, availability, and consumption of diversified nutrient-rich foods.
In some cases, the gardens become a source of income through the sale of excesses. Sarafina a lead mother in Turkwel says her kitchen garden provides vegetables to her family almost throughout the year. She is one of the lead mothers trained by Africare and supported with certified vegetable seeds for her garden. In her garden, she grows cowpeas, watermelons, and spider plant (sagaa).
Although lack of enough water is the main challenge, she says she utilizes kitchen water that would have otherwise gone to waste. “My farm is a little bit large, I have to fetch water in the nearby borehole which is 200m away. During the rainy seasons, the garden performs so well that I sell surplus vegetables to my neighbors.”
Africare targets to establish 480 vegetable gardens across Katilu and Turkwel wards. The gardens on lead mother’s homesteads will act as model gardens for other mothers to learn from.
Through Africare nutritionists and Agriculture officers, mothers receive guidance on the nutritious vegetables to grow and how to manage the gardens. Community Health Volunteers (CHVs) supported by Africare also play an important role in ensuring daily supervision of the vegetable gardens.