SANGO-KENYA IMPROVES FOOD AND NUTRITION SECURITY FOR MOTHERS, CHILDREN, FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES

Children’s nutrition is one of the key driving factors behind SANGO-Kenya. Undernutrition in children is associated with cognitive impairment – deficiencies that can have lifetime impacts, hindering education, and limiting future work and income.

In 2019, SANGO-Kenya began partnering with small-scale women farmers to increase food and nutrition security during the long rainy season, which begins in March and extends through May. We provided in-class training and field support to19 farmers in one village for growing and consuming traditional African green leafy vegetables, which are nutritious and adaptable to unreliability of the climate where we work. Through our evaluation assessments, we have seen that participation in SANGO-Kenya is associated with increased consumption of these green vegetables.

In 2021, we more than tripled the participants to over 73 women farmers in two villages. Additionally, we extended the program to the second growing season, called the short rains, which begin in late August or early September and generally last only last one month. Further, we added a new crop — orange-flesh sweet potatoes, which are nutritious, filling, and not widely grown in this area.

With the addition of this program, SANGO-Kenya is now providing year-long support to the farmers.



SANGO-Kenya’s programs are designed to address food and nutrition insecurity among households and communities of smallholder farmers in rural Kenya. They focus on solving the problems identified in research conducted in Kenya’s Seme-sub-county in 2016-2017 by Dr. Constance Gewa, SANGO-Kenya’s Co-founder and Director of Programs. Seme sub-county is located in Kisumu County, on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria.

Her research was conducted in households with non-pregnant reproductive age mothers with young children. The research examined consumption of indigenous and traditional foods (ITFs), which are nutrient-rich and well-suited for growing in Seme’s challenging and changing climate conditions, characterized by torrential rains often followed by drought. 

The study found that approximately 60% of households experienced food insecurity across different seasons of 2016-2017. Despite having the potential to contribute to nutrient and food security, consumption levels of indigenous and traditional foods were relatively low. The study showed that over 50% of mothers reported that neither they nor their young children consumed as many ITFs as the mothers would have liked. Non-availability, high cost, and taste preference were cited as significant reasons for insufficient ITF consumption.1

Focus group discussions, key-informant interviews, and community meetings conducted in 2017 and 2019 identified multiple challenges to improving food security in Seme. These include environmental factors (specifically inadequate and unpredictable rainfall and deteriorating soil conditions), institutional factors (lacking agricultural policies, poor extension service), economic factors (lack of access to farming resources and technology), and personal factors (agronomic knowledge and skills, attitudes towards indigenous and traditional foods, gender issues).

1Gewa CA, Onyango AC, Obondo Angano F, Stabile B, Komwa M, Thomas P, Krall J  (2019). Mothers’ beliefs about indigenous and traditional food affordability, availability and taste are significant predictors of indigenous and traditional food consumption among mothers and young children in rural Kenya. Public Health Nutrition, 22 (16), 2950-2961.

SUSTAINABLE FARMING, INDIGENOUS AND TRADITIONAL VEGETABLES

SANGO-Kenya’s programs, developed in coordination with leaders and members of the local communities, help improve food and nutrition security among mothers, children, other household members, and the community.

Program components focus on:

Agriculture Training

  • SANGO-Kenya’s agriculture experts train smallholder farmers, mostly women, to use environmentally sustainable agricultural practices that maximize crop yields, improve harvesting methods, and preserve seeds so they can be used in the next season.
  • We train the farmers in the nutrition and climate-resilient benefits of growing and consuming African traditional vegetables, as well as preservation techniques so they can continue consuming them post-harvest.

Nutrition Training

  • Nutrition experts train the participants in the nutritional benefits of the vegetables the farmers grow, especially regarding pregnant mothers, infants, and young children.
  • We emphasize the need to consume a variety of foods for maximum nutritional benefit.
  • We train them how to prepare recipes that enhance taste and preserve nutrition.

Agricultural Support

  • SANGO-Kenya provides farmers inputs such as quality seeds and reusable farm materials such as netting for protecting seedlings.
  • We provide on-going support from agriculture experts during land preparation, planting, growing, and harvesting to ensure maximum crop yield and maintenance of soil health.

Developing Leaders for Sustainability

  • Part of SANGO-Kenya’s ongoing training and support focuses on preparing the farmers to become community leaders who serve as ambassadors to the community, explaining the benefits of sustainable farming and nutrient-rich African traditional vegetables.
  • SANGO-Kenya utilizes the Training of Trainers model, identifying Lead Farmers who receive additional training so they can supplement the agriculture consultants’ support to the farmers.  

USING EVIDENCE-BASED ANALYSIS TO MEASURE OUTCOMES

SANGO-Kenya collects data in order to accurately measure and evaluate our programs. Data collection includes:

  • Pre- and post-project questionnaires
    • SANGO-Kenya conducts detailed surveys with all of the farmers prior to the beginning of the pilot and when the pilot has concluded.
  • Food consumption diaries
    • Farmers record their dietary intake prior to the beginning of the project, when harvest began, at the end of the harvest, and two weeks post-harvest.
  • Post-training satisfaction surveys
    • Farmers fill out questionnaires at the end of every training session.

SANGO-KENYA PILOT

Graduates of the SANGO-Kenya pilot program each received a certificate and a lesso, the colorful cloths they are all wearing. As it was in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions, all participants wore masks.

SANGO-Kenya implemented a pilot from January – August, 2020. Working with our advisors and consultants from the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, along with other community members and leaders, we identified 21 members of a women’s group (19 women and two men) to participate. Training sessions were concentrated in the first month, with some additional training during planting and harvest.

We held a graduation ceremony upon completion at which all participants received a certificate. (See the SANGO Diaries, chapter 7 for more details.)

Initial findings from data analysis include:

  • SANGO-Kenya farmers felt their crop yields were greater than their neighbors’.
  • They had more money from (a) spending less money on buying vegetables for home consumption and (b) selling more surplus vegetables at the market than in previous years.
  • Farmers feel confident that they can help their neighbors learn the methods they used in the program.

Nutrient Rich Orange Flesh Sweet Potatoes

Introducing orange flesh sweet potatoes will help the farmers in many ways:

  • Orange flesh sweet potatoes are well suited to the short rains, as they grow fast and can grow in unpredictable rainfall. 
  • They provide beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A and enhances both the mother’s and infant’s immune systems as well as promoting healthy vision.
  • They are filling, taste good, and provide additional calories.
  • The leaves of the sweet potatoes can be eaten, providing an additional green vegetable that is rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
  • The additional training will give support to farmers through December, keeping the farmers involved in SANGO-Kenya’s sustainable programs year-round.