Real Impact is a non-profit organization funded by USAID that focuses research and development on nutrition gardens. We were amazed at the developments they have made with not only their gardens but also in composting, bio fuel, and land development.
It’s no surprise to hear that Africa has been struggling with malnutrition. That its children and pregnant women die by the thousands because they aren’t getting the adequate diet. The problem is that in some countries, like Kenya, they have plenty of opportunity to have the right foods growing right outside in their own yards. They just don’t do it. Many factors contribute to this offset. First, the people are ignorant to the benefits of a well rounded diet. Many have never seen the food pyramid – or the new Healthy Eating Plate developed by Harvard Medical School. They typically believe that if they are fed, they are healthy. This brings me to the second point. Kenyans, especially in our village, grow maize or corn. Their entire farm is maize. They could have 5 acres and it would all be maize. Because of this their diet is completely corn and starch based. For every meal, 3 times a day for 7 days a week, they will eat Ughali. It is simply ground corn mill and it is cooked into a dense mound and served with either a tiny disproportionate side of kale or hot milk. It fills you up, but does not – in any way- nourish your body. Third, but certainly not last, is that their poverty level plays a key role in the choices of vegetables and fruits that they grow. For instance, a family might choose to grow carrots and spinach in their home gardens but when those vegetables are ready for harvest they will take them straight to the market instead of keeping some for their personal use.
The biggest problem is that with simple education they could see that by tweaking their home farms even as small a portion as 10 meters square could feed their families a balanced nutritious diet all year and with not a single bit of extra work or loss of income. In fact, you could go a step further and show that with a better diet their children would perform better in school and they themselves would have more energy and focus for any activity they choose to commit to. It sounds simple. It is not. Behavior and learned routine and habits are a difficult thing to change. You can imagine that if you and your family – and your families family and so on – have been living life one way for 100s of years, you can’t expect them to change everything in just one chance meeting.
How do we change this behavior? I believe there is no better way to instigate change than by setting a good example. Brett and I need to gain more knowledge, surely, but there are plenty of people in our community who are ready for a new life and who know how to keep a garden. We need to reach those people and start a group. With this group we will begin a community garden within a school and through them we will spread the word. It is amazing how children can influence their families. These children are the new wave of the future of Kenya and through them we can teach new innovating ways to improve a skill they already have. Not only will this impact the kids at the school level but they will go home and show their parents. Eventually – we hope – they will teach their own children. The change has to start somewhere and who better to begin with than the kids.
Posted on December 7, 2012, in 1st Year!!!, Peace Corps and tagged Africa, AIDS, Blogging, Children, Culture, Family, food security, gardening, HIV, Kenya, Life, News, nutrition, Peace Corps, Real impact. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.