For babies to fully develop, for students to grow and learn, for adults to live productive lives, proper nutrition is imperative. While CSRL’s ISU-Uganda Program addresses nutrition in many ways, two primary projects, Nutrition Education Centers (NECs) and school gardens, meet it head on.
First inspired by the severe malnutrition of one baby boy and his mother, NECs provide for the proper nutrition for children, from birth to age five, and pregnant and breastfeeding women. Currently, ISU-UP has nine active NECs located in community neighborhoods throughout the district. Locations are chosen based on the needs within walking distance of the area. Administering supplemental nutrition and related training, the NECs literally save lives while preparing women to maintain their families’ improved health indefinitely.
The school gardens program helps teach and nourish students in four primary and two secondary schools in the Kamuli District. The gardens furnish produce for school lunches that are served in all six locations, varying in frequency from one to five days a week. Two of the primary schools also have poultry programs that help to enhance the lunch program through animal sourced protein and sale of surplus eggs. ISU-UP staff and undergraduate students from Iowa State and Makerere Universities work alongside elementary school children to maintain the on-site school gardens and care for poultry. While pupils learn skills in agriculture and livestock management, the gardens and livestock supply ingredients for the school lunch program.
Some of the approaches we utilize include:
- Establish and administer Nutrition Education Centers
- Using locally available ingredients, serve a nutrient dense porridge to nourish mothers and infants and teach mothers how to make the porridge at home
- Coordinate with district health centers to provide basic health education and services
- Educate mothers on how they can help their families to maintain good health, and provide training on home gardening to produce nutritious foods
- Provide skills training to help mothers gain income that helps maintain the welfare of their families
- Coordinate Food and Nutrition Security Support Groups to ensure the continued success of mothers who have graduated from the NECs
- Establish and oversee nutrition demonstration gardens
- Establish and oversee school gardens and lunch programs
- Collaborate with school administrators and parents of pupils to provide school lunches
- Collaborate with school administrators and parents of pupils to establish and maintain primary school gardens which help support the school lunch program and provide an outdoor laboratory for students
- Organize gardens that provide food as well as entrepreneurial and agricultural enterprises for participating youth
- Coordinate craft and farming programs that help women to feed their families, and that benefit students, youth and community members
- Establish poultry-keeping programs, benefiting the community and the school lunch program
- Construct and enhance school kitchens to facilitate sanitary and efficient distribution of school lunches
- Promote improved sanitation and hygiene at schools and in homes through use of tip taps, latrines, rubbish pits, and kitchen drying racks
Continuing goals include:
- Improve the nutritional and health status of vulnerable groups
- Increase access to adequate and diverse diets
- Enhance ability to provide technical services through partnerships
- Expand the school garden and lunch programs to provide more lunches on more days to more children
- Promote larger-scale crop enterprises at school gardens for income to support additional school projects
- Expand kitchen facilities to support increased meal preparation
- Improve irrigation for more/bigger gardens
- Open new NECs to reduce travel distances for clients
- Set up nutrition demonstration gardens in more parishes
- Strengthen nutritional rehabilitation partnerships with health facilities
- Reduce mortality and morbidity rates through capacity building
- Develop best practices publications on nutrition in both English and Lusoga languages
Support groups grow community, improve household health and nutrition
When Dorothy Masinde suggested CSRL create support groups for mothers after they completed programs at the ISU-UP Nutrition Education Centers, her intent was to build networks of mothers that could encourage and help each other once they left the guidance of a NEC.
Each NEC works with pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and their babies, and children at risk for malnutrition. Concentrating on the child’s first 1,000 days, these programs ensure adequate nutrition by giving clients access to nutritious porridge made from locally available ingredients. Mothers are trained and given seeds to grow ingredients used for making composite flour so they can continue to provide porridge for their families after completing the program.
Initially, members of these new Food and Nutrition Security Support Groups focused on contributing one or two ingredients from their own gardens toward a batch of porridge shared by the group. It did not take long, however, until the groups were ready to branch out. Several decided to raise money to invest in the needs of a member or the entire group.
“Before we knew it, each group had come up with their own ideas. To prepare the soil for planting, some groups went to each member’s garden with hand hoes, so the digging went faster together. Or they put money together to rent a piece of land and grew a crop as a collective,” said Masinde, CSRL associate director for nutrition education programs.
Nineteen support groups have formed since spring of 2019, with memberships of eight to 21 per group for a total of 268 participants, primarily women of any age. They come together to learn about and discuss issues of food and nutrition security that impact household health and nutrition in Kamuli District. Each group sets its own rules and elects its leaders. They hold weekly meetings at the home of a member, which they have continued to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ndigakweya Bususwa support group, for example, consists of 16 women. Through their collective efforts and savings, they have:
- Purchased 16 cows, 16 chickens, 14 goats, and two pigs for the members
- Purchased utensils, mattresses, clothes, plates, cups, sauce pans, and mats shared by all members
- Gathered ingredients to make porridge for the group
- Rented land to grow soybeans, millet, and grain amaranth
- Planted 20 banana suckers for each member
- Made energy-saving stoves for each member’s home
- Helped in each other’s gardens, making mounds of sweet potatoes, for example
“When we talk about sustainability, this is one example. This shows that these women can be self-driven. To be able to put money together and buy even one cow for the whole group is something big, because women in Uganda don’t normally own cows,” Masinde said.
ISU-UP supports group training in agronomy, livestock, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, and collective savings; technical support for their projects; access to seeds for porridge ingredients and seedlings for other crops.
To make a gift to the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods, please click here to go directly to the ISU Foundation, or contact Sarah Roelfs at (515) 294-1031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.