Nourishing the Future: A Collaborative Approach to Ending Undernutrition in Kenya’s ASALs

Millions of children across Africa, particularly those living in areas plagued by drought and unpredictable weather, constantly struggle to get enough healthy food to thrive. Poor diets can have devastating consequences, leading to stunted growth, increased illness, and even death. In Kenya alone, nearly 1 in 5 children under 5 years suffer from stunting, with this number rising even higher in rural areas [KNBS and ICF, 2023]. But there’s a glimmer of hope. Through collaboration and innovative solutions, communities are charting a path toward a future of food security and improved nutrition.

On March 8th, a pivotal event unfolded in Makueni County, Kenya, showcased collaboration’s power in tackling hunger and undernutrition. The event was an impact study dissemination workshop for the “Development and Delivery of Biofortified (DDBIO) Crops at Scale” project, an initiative that aims to combat malnutrition. The workshop was jointly organized by the International Potato Center (CIP) through the CGIAR initiatives: Seed Equal and National Policies and Strategies, and Makueni County Government. This workshop showcased the importance of multi-sector collaboration in tackling global challenges, especially food security and undernutrition.

The DDBIO project, a multi-country nutrition-sensitive agriculture program was implemented by the International Potato Centre (CIP) in collaboration with the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and other partners over three years. In Kenya, the program targeted vulnerable communities living in ASALs and was implemented as a package that combined three main interventions: the provision of orange fleshed sweetpotato (OFSP) vines to agro-pastoral households; agricultural and nutrition training, and support (focusing on OFSP production and maternal and child nutrition) as well as the distribution of child feeding bowls (Healthy Baby Toolkit) to support behavior change and promote optimal complementary feeding.

Knowledge, Diet, and Children’s Health

The study‚Äôs findings revealed promising results. The DDBIO program’s interventions improved nutrition outcomes in participating households, with a significant increase in nutrition knowledge, particularly regarding the importance of Vitamin A for child health. The program also led to a more balanced intake of essential vitamins and minerals by increasing dietary diversity, especially among women and children. This improvement in nutrition translates to better overall health and well-being. Notably, households reported a higher frequency of children under two receiving a minimum acceptable diet, indicating improved access to and consumption of nutritious foods crucial for early childhood development.

The DDBIO program highlights the effectiveness of combining multiple interventions to address the pressing issue of food security. According to the program’s findings, households that received a combination of two or three interventions, namely OFSP vines, nutrition/agronomy education sessions, and Healthy Baby Toolkit, experienced the most significant improvements in their overall nutrition and Vitamin A knowledge and practices. This finding underscores the importance of a comprehensive approach addressing food security’s supply and demand aspects. By combining different interventions and targeting both the availability of nutritious foods and the knowledge and behaviors surrounding their consumption, we can make significant strides toward improving overall nutritional outcomes.

A Blueprint for the Future

In summary, combating undernutrition requires a synergistic approach. This involves fostering stakeholder collaboration, enhancing access to education and resources, promoting sustainable agriculture practices suitable for arid regions, strengthening health systems to provide essential services, and prioritizing targeted support for vulnerable populations. The DDBIO program’s success serves as a blueprint for future initiatives highlighting the transformative power of collaboration and innovation in addressing complex challenges such as food insecurity. It underscores the importance of taking a holistic approach to tackling undernutrition, involving multiple stakeholders working together towards a common goal.

Authors: Leonard Kirui (CIP), Dorcas Amunga (CIP), Chalmers Mulwa (CIP), Lucy Mwaura (CIP), Fred Grant (CIP), Moyo Mukani (CIP) and Jack Malit (CIP)
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