Malnutrition and small-scale gardening By Willem VAN COTTHEM University of Ghent, BelgiumABSTRACTMalnutrition in developing countries is generally alleviated by food aid providedby international organizations like the World Food Programme (WFP). This kind ofintervention at regular intervals leaves the recipient people mostly dependent onexternal aid. However, small-scale gardening is an excellent tool to provide foodsecurity and to improve nutrition and health conditions, in particular for children. ---------------------One can read on my bloghttp://desertification.wordpress.comthe posting:COTE D’IVOIRE: Malnutrition “critical” in north and westpublished by IRIN, humanitarian news and analysis, a project of the UN Office forthe Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.I found it quite painful to learn about the chronic malnutrition of 40 to 45 % ofthe children, according to preliminary results of a 2009 nutrition study by theMinistry of Health of Ivory Coast, in collaboration with UNICEF, WFP and OCHA.Lack of education, poor diets and feeding practices, reduced access to land dueto conflict, inconsistent rains and poor access to health care are mentioned asthe main causes for this dramatic situation.In the western part of the country only “9 percent of households regularly feedtheir children meals representing the four necessary food groups“. ……………..“Children here may eat three times a day but there is nothing nutritious in thefood.”The study warns that chronic malnutrition could even worsen if food insecurity,due to farmers being displaced, vulnerability to 2008 food price hikes andinconsistent rains, continues.It was concluded that responding to this terrible chronic malnutrition requiresreducing poverty, improving health services and food security, as well aschanging behaviour.It sounds nice that FAO is addressing food security in the region of the city ofMan by working with a local NGO Idée Afrique. To me it sounds like a ChristmasCarol when I read : “FAO gave Chabel a gardening kit so she could growvegetables to eat or sell. FAO runs 36 such centres in northern and westernregions in collaboration with the National Nutrition Programme (PNN), UNICEF,WFP and NGO Action Contre la Faim“.
Isn’t it wonderful news to learn that FAO, in collaboration with PNN, UNICEF,WFP and a NGO, runs 36 feeding and nutrition-awareness centers in that part ofIvory Coast?Let us now suppose that these international and national organizations join theirforces to offer a gardening kit to every young mother in these northern andwestern regions so they could grow vegetables to eat or sell.Three questions come to my mind:“What would be the percentage of chronic malnutrition 2-3 years after laying outsmall family gardens with these gardening kits”?;“Would the vegetables grown in these small gardens make the daily food of thechildren nutritious enough”?and“What would be the level of poverty reduction if the young mothers could sell apart of their vegetables“?Do I hear a new Christmas Carol? Or is it just one of my dreams?