Cultivating Good Nutrition in the First 1000 Days

Published August 17, 2016 by Dorothy Mwangi

Angela Lokinei attending to her kitchen garden

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 kitchen door.

All her life, the only option available to her regarding acquiring vegetables for her children was a ten-kilometer walk to a local market in Isiolo town

Angela now 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.   

She can now spend more time with her family and save the money she would have used purchasing vegtables.  “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.”

The Aukot Self Help Group which Angela is part of, comprises 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 and household hygiene.

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 first 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.”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 kitchen door.