Cultivating Good Nutrition in the First 1000 Days

Kitchen gardens offer great potential for alleviating micronutrient deficiencies.

Angela Lokinei tends to her kitchen garden at her home in Ngaremare Village in Isiolo County.  Photo. Dorothy Mwangi

Angela Lokinei, 32-year-old mother of six could never imagine in her wildest dreams that one day she would be able to pick green vegetables just outside her door.

All her life, the only option has been a ten-kilometer walk to a local market in Isiolo town to buy the occasional vegetables for her children.

Angela Lokinei has a successful backyard kitchen garden.  She is one of the more than 6,500 women in the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya whose lives have been changed by the information she learned on improved nutrition provided by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), a REGAL-IR partner.  Prior to this, Angela did not have any knowledge of kitchen gardening.   

Angela is now able to spend more time with her family and save money.  “We no longer travel to the market to buy vegetables for our homes because we now have kitchen gardens,” Angela says. “We grow cowpeas, kales and spinach and our children are much healthier.”

Angela is a member of Aukot Self Help Group, comprising of 26 women that come together every week to learn about improved nutrition for their families.  The group has learnt the importance of good nutrition, kitchen gardening, water treatment, household hygiene and  participated in cooking demonstrations.

REGAL-IR provides a community-based forum where families learn the importance of eating nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables as part of Behavior Change Communication (BCC) strategy to transform feeding practices in the arid lands.

According to the Government smart survey, June 2016 report, Isiolo County has a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence of between  9 and 15 percent due to seasonal fluctuations in food security, poor infrastructure and low levels of access to essential health and other social services. 

Growing vegetables in kitchen gardens has opened up a new front in the fight against malnutrition in the arid lands.  The nutrients found in vegetables are especially important during the 1,000 days of life, from conception to a child’s second birthday. The effects of poor nutrition in this time can be irreversible and lasts a lifetime.

The benefits of this model include the empowerment of women who are now able to farm for the first time and have a newfound understanding of nutrition.   The program also aims to ensure that mothers adopt healthy practices, including early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding for a child’s first six months.  

“Getting water nearby is a challenge.  For now I use the run-off water from my house to water my garden” Angela says. “Growing vegetables within our homesteads was the last thing we could ever imagine.”

The group is excited about the future, they plan to develop a larger nursery and work to earn addition income from the sale of surplus produce.

Members of Aukot Self Help Group at the group nursery in Ngaremare Village, Isiolo County Members of Aukot Self Help Group at the nursery facility in Ngaremare Village in Isiolo County.  Photo Dorothy Mwangi