In 2019, students from University of California, Berkeley and MMU teamed with RCRA to conduct research on the nutritional and welfare benefits of vegetable gardening in Kasese District, conducting surveys, an innovative card sorting game, a nutritional recall survey, key informant interviews and case stories with 50 randomly selected households. Details of the study were published in the African Journal for Agriculture, Food, Nutrition and Development. The findings and recommendations from this study led to 1,000 Women’s Gardens for Health and Nutrition, in-line with the goal of RCRA to center its support for vulnerable families in Kasese District around sustainable livelihoods, women’s empowerment, and meeting family nutritional and health needs.
All along the way, these women gardeners are supported and trained by the lead project coordinator and agronomist, Doreen Kansiime, with two part-time assistants, and the facilitative support of the RCRA Executive Director and the Senior Technical Advisor. In addition to individual visits to distribute inputs (e.g. seeds, watering cans, liquid neem) and help establish and monitor the vegetable nurseries and gardens, Doreen conducts group trainings on key topics: establishing raised beds, composting and mulching, and pest and disease management.
Women are beginning to harvest their first garden crops for home consumption and sale, such as the cabbages and tomatoes seen in the photos above. In August of 2021, we will be conducting short surveys to learn more systematically about changes in family vegetable consumption, especially among children and pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as income generated from garden sales, and uses of the money. We will then have a better handle on the full range of health and welfare gains for gardening families, including improved knowledge, self-confidence, and opportunities for peer socialization. Men are joining women in some of the trainings, which bodes well for sustained participation by women and reduced domestic tensions arising from food insecurity and lack of money.
RCRA Office Sack Garden
Doreen has set up a sack/container garden outside of the RCRA Office in Kasese Town for staff members to tend and enjoy, and for visitors to see what type of gardening can be done even in small spaces (see photos below).
Looking Forward: Phase 2 and Beyond
Collectively, we are generating great enthusiasm and buy-in for 1,000 Women’s Gardens from women gardeners, local government, MMU, and RCRA staff and supporters as per the partnership model, This support is crucial as we begin the 2nd and future phases toward our goal of 1,000 household gardens and nearly 100 community gardens.
For the 2nd phase, the focus will be on three sub-groups: 1) grandmothers rearing grandchildren; 2) young single mothers (ages 13-19), and 3) people living with HIV-AIDs. Among the community gardens, one will be with a primary school – to assist with school feeding, and two will be with teenage mothers in great need of training and peer socialization to break their isolation, poverty and societal stigma.
Starting in July 2021, Doreen and her assistants at RCRA will be supported by two Mountains of the Moon University (MMU) student interns from the School of Agriculture and Environment. Their duties are to: 1) visit all Phase 1 gardens to monitor progress and provide technical assistance, particularly on soil fertility and pest management problems; 2) assist Doreen to provide technical guidance to Phase 2 gardeners, and 3) conduct field research on agroecological methods to improve soil fertility and pest resistence in the region. We hope to have MMU interns every year, establishing a strong partnership with the university over time.
Since 1,000 Women’s Gardens was constituted in September 2020, the project has raised over $40,000 USD from 189 donors using the Global Giving platform. Future fundraising will continue with Global Giving and expand to foundation and private sponsors as opportunities arise.