KIGALI, Rwanda— At Murandi health center in Rwanda, a health educator encouraged women to share gardening tips with each other early in the year, working to create multiple successful gardens in the community according to the Gardens for Health blog. This method creates food stability for individual families and hopefully, will eliminate malnutrition in Rwanda in the future.
The Gardens for Health blog serves as a media center for Gardens for Health International. This program, a non-profit organization in Rwanda, partners with local clinics to improve health education, support programs that incorporate agriculture as a solution to malnutrition and offer technical assistance to partners interested in using agriculture in malnutrition treatment.
According to a 2013 Marie Clare article, “Into Africa,” three American college students founded the organization in response to severe childhood malnutrition in Rwanda. Although Rwanda has made significant progress since its 1994 genocide and even has one of the best healthcare insurance systems among developing nations, poverty and malnutrition in rural areas remain prevalent. Gardens for Health created a community garden, growing fruits and vegetables with essential nutrients in an area near Kigali, Rwanda. The organization operates via this community garden, the creation of family home gardens and a training methodology.
The United Nations World Food Program estimates that 43 percent of children under five are malnourished in Rwanda and the nation ranked 167 out of 187 countries in the 2013 UNDP Human Development Report, demonstrating food insufficiency and economic instability.
Astonishingly, Gardens for Health ascertains that 85 percent of Rwandans farm or have agricultural knowledge. The organization strives to solve malnutrition among children in the nation via the organization of agriculture, bringing together Rwandan farm knowledge and those that need better nutrition. Their work has helped 1,900 families, providing adequate nutrition and health resources for 7,600 children.
While Gardens for Health and other non-governmental organizations initiated the fight to decrease cases of malnutrition, the Rwandan government also vowed to improve nutrition throughout the country in 2009. According to the Scaling Up Nutrition organization, the government hosted the First National Nutrition Summit in 2009, established the National Multi-sectoral Strategy to Eliminate Nutrition in 2010 and implemented nutrition plans in districts throughout the country. Most recently, Rwanda created a memorandum with the European Union for 10 million dollars of funding to support nutrition initiatives in Rwanda.
Today, Gardens for Health works with the Rwandan government to reach malnourished children. Through partnerships with government health centers, clinics refer malnourished children to Gardens for Health. The organization provides the child’s family with health information and helps the family set up a home garden to grow fruits and vegetables.
As mentioned in the Gardens for Health blog, the organization encourages the mothers of these families to attend gardening classes. The classes become a community of support for the women, helping each other to maintain their family gardens. In a health educator’s description of the classes, she stated that following the program, the women decided, “to keep meeting regularly to share information, so that they can continue preventing any causes of malnutrition in their families.”
Gardens for Health has success with their methods and has observed families maintaining gardens in the years following the initial setup. In 2014, Gardens for Health International plans to institute the same program via partners in two more African nations, Uganda and Burundi.
– Jaclyn Ambrecht