Author: Kadlah Nabakembo, Finn Church Aid
HealthyFoodAfrica project’s Food System Lab in Rwamwanja refugee settlement aims to increase the availability of diversified and nutritious food in the households of maize farming women.
With increased income and availability of nutritious food in women’s households, the FSL intervenes to promote nutrition education and awareness among beneficiaries to improve their ability to make healthy food choices and increased consumption of nutritious food, which translates into improved nutritional quality for refugee women and their household members. To achieve this, the project aims to implement the following.
The Food System Lab is promoting the production of long-season organic vegetables, such as African small eggplant, green amaranth (dodo), black beauty, sukuma wiki and leafy onions in each household through a “kitchen gardening” approach.
The community extension team trained the women to organise small plots and grow vegetables around their homesteads using simple and environmentally friendly water and soil conservation practices, such as mulching, composting and manuring to ensure year-round production and availability of safe and fresh vegetables. This approach has not only helped the women to have a varied daily diet but has also enabled them to save the money previously spent on buying vegetables and use it to buy livestock-related products such as silver fish cooked with vegetables or pulses promoted through the FSL’s legume-cereal intercropping activities.
“Do you think I lead a similar life to people who don’t have vegetable plots? No, I use the money they would have spent on market vegetables for other purposes. Sometimes they go without vegetables for a while and then, when they need help, they come to me and beg for free vegetables”, says Getrude Mukamyagwe, one of the beneficiaries.
The women in Rwamwanja have been challenged by a prolonged drought that lasts from May to August, reducing the amount of water available to irrigate the vegetables. During this drought period, small animals such as pigs, goats and chickens tend to roam around and destroy the vegetables, despite the women’s protective measures.
Nutrition education and awareness
With support from the FSL, a nutrition education workshop was conducted and contextualised nutrition education messages were developed targeting the refugee women in Rwamwanja. A number of Rwamwanja-appropriate strategies to disseminate the nutrition education information and create nutrition awareness in the community were proposed and agreed upon, and the roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder were identified.
The next step is to produce nutrition education materials and packages that will be used to disseminate and raise awareness of nutrition education among community members to improve women’s ability to make appropriate food choices and consume nutritious foods.