Nutrition and disease are an inseparable pair and while effects of excessive or inadequate nutrition does not seem tied to the mortality rate of Covid 19, the relationship is quite evident. According to the 2020 Global Nutrition report, 1 in 9 people globally are under nourished and 1 in 3 are obese. These statistics totaling over a billion people thus present and amplify challenges in the Covid 19 battle.
These factors coupled by the disruptions of food distribution systems, incomes and movement have led to spikes in cost of food and scarcity in other instances presenting a challenge to stakeholders on how best to adequately, affordably and consistently deliver on this necessity. Cognizant of this the Government of Kenya through the Ministry of Agriculture and like partners including the National Business Compact of Covid 19 (NBCC) sought home grown solutions by initiating the 1 Million Kitchen Garden Campaign. The campaign will seek to ensure availability of vegetables, fruits and herbs to enhance proper nutrition in over one million households across the country through the use of kitchen gardens.
NBCC’s role will be to compliment the project by providing strategic communication on aspects of food availability, accessibility and proper nutrition following the COVID-19 Nutrition and Healthy Diets Guidelines to the public in an effort to boost immunity of the Kenyan people during the COVID-19 period.
Designed to encourage the setting up of kitchen gardens in each homestead, the program will bring together experts from various stakeholder groups to not only make the campaign a success but also reinforce the need of proper and balanced nutrition.
Speaking as she launched the campaign in Makueni, Agriculture CAS Ann Nyaga noted
“The success of this program represents a new first line of defense for the fight against Covid 19 as we need to maintain a healthy population for the larger population to stay healthy.” She added localizing and domesticating food production to individual households will not only ensure access to nutrition, but will also complement the stay at home call and reinforce further on food security- one of the pillars in the governments Big Four Agenda.
Present for NBCC was Myriam Sidibe, the NBCC chair & co-founder who noted
“In this era of social and physical distancing, food becomes an important element of our newly confined lives. We wonder when we will get more fresh fruits and vegetables and where our produce has been. Food accessibility is essential in enabling many to stay in isolation and helping communities contain Covid-19.”
Through the support of the Small Scale Irrigation and Value Addition Project (SIVAP), Makueni County piloted this campaign having the initial set of 15,000 farmers who will be the peer-educators on simple technologies to produce, prepare and preserve green to the communities. The campaign will then be rolled out to the rest of 46 counties.
Designed to cater for both urban and rural farmer and diverse space availability, the kitchen garden technologies that the farmers will be taken through country wide will include; Multi-storey gardens, cone garden, hanging gardens, micro-gardens (buckets, tyres, other containers) , moist bed gardens, staircase garden, aquaphonics and food robe garden.
For many Kenyans, the pandemic has made them choose affordable over quality, thus currently addressing their hunger needs and not their nutritional needs. Indeed this has been replicated globally in diverse affected communities and for the benefactors this will not only reverse this trend, but it will also ensure fresh, nutritious and available food in each homestead. To further encourage communities to participate, producers seeking to offload surplus will be assisted through various government channels to access markets and earn from their gardens/farms.
While this initiative is aimed at helping combat and or cushion the effects of Covid 19, the Global Nutrition Report sums it up well by stating the conversation on nutrition must be fast tracked and elevated as the cause and effect has impact on entire global population. It further notes that poor diet remains a leading cause of mortality and morbidity worldwide, exceeding the burdens attributable to many other major global health challenges.
The resulting global malnutrition crisis includes hunger and under nutrition and diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like being overweight, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. This double burden of malnutrition and over-nutrition has vast health, economic and environmental implications and this 1 Million Kitchen Garden campaign represents a significant step in reversing the raised concerns.
Get to know more by visiting the Ministry of Agriculture website.