1,000 Women’s gardens for Nutrition and Health

In Kasese District, 85% of households make a living as subsistence farmers on degraded land and hunger and malnutrition are chronic issues. Over 40% of children 5-59 months old are stunted and 13% are wasted. Women are the main farmers of food but need support to improve crop diversity and productivity. Other women lack access to land but can garden collectively. Better nutrition is essential for improving the health status of children and school performance.

Establishing sustainable gardens is a low-cost and effective way to increase family vegetable and fruit consumption and empower women to generate and spend income on family needs – food, medicine, school fees. This project brings together the skills of RCRA staff in health and nutrition, Mountains of the Moon University students in agronomy and integrated pest management, and the local knowledge of village and small-town women to establish and manage home and community gardens in 50 villages.

This project will significantly improve the dietary diversity, nutrition, health and welfare of 1,000 rural and small-town families in Kasese District. It will provide a partnership model of effective support for home and community gardens for replication and scaling-up throughout Uganda. Women managed gardens empower women to feed their families, earn income, reduce domestic tension and, eventually, command community respect

previous arrow
next arrow
Slider

Project progressive updates

the first phase of 1,000 Women’s Gardens, is nearly complete, with 100 household vegetable nurseries established, and 90 of these transplanted successfully into ‘mother’ gardens.  The remaining ten will be transplanted in Mubuku, the last community to get started, by the time this report goes out.  All eight community gardens have been sown collectively on the land provided by one group member.  Community gardens average eight women members.  Therefore, adding up, 100 households plus 64 community garden members, the project is already benefitting more than 150 families, and close to 1,000 individuals. The main vegetables sown (by seed availability, marketability, and nutritional value) are: local spinach (dodo), pumpkin, tomatoes, cabbage, onions and eggplant.

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 has conducted several group trainings on key topics: establishing raised beds, composting and mulching, and pest and disease management .

For instance, in the photos below Doreen is teaching women to manage insects and diseases, such as early blight in these tomatoes, by cutting off diseased leaves, picking off visible insects, and, generally keeping the beds clean of weeds that can harbor and transmit pests. Liquid neem can be applied for a variety of diseases if these initial measures fail. She teaches not to fear some incidence of pests, but to keep the populations down to manageable levels.

Women are beginning to harvest their first garden crops for home consumption and sale, such as the cabbages seen in the photo below. In August, we will be conducting surveys to learn 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.

Doreen has also set up a sack/container garden outside of the RCRA Office in Kasese Town, for staff members to enjoy and for visitors to see what gardening can be done even in small spaces (see photo below). Collectively we are generating a lot of enthusiasm and buy-in for this project, which will be necessary as it scales-up to the second and future phases toward our goal of 1,000 household gardens and nearly 100 community gardens. For the next phase, the project will focus on three sub-groups in the same geographic area: 1) grandmothers rearing grandchildren; 2) young single mothers, and 3) people living with HIV-AIDs, and will assist to establish the first primary school garden

Looking Forward

PLANS FOR 2ND PHASE

The 1,000 Women’s kitchen and community gardens initiative is intended to improve the health and nutrition of Kasese District, targeting households where members are living with HIV/AIDS, are pregnant and young mothers, and where there are children under two years.  We are working in the sub-counties of Maliba, Kyabarungira, Bwesumbu, Hima and Mubuku. This is being implemented through setting up kitchen gardens in the selected households and community gardens for united groups of women, providing hands-on training on bed preparation, nursery establishment, transplanting, pest and disease management, mulching, and water conservation, among others.  We also provide diverse vegetable seeds, watering cans and botanical pesticides (Neem-based).

Phase 1 (January – May 2021); 100 households have been mobilized, received seeds, and their kitchen gardens are well established, monitored, and producing vegetables (dodo, sukamawiki, eggplant, tomato, onion, pumpkin, cabbage). 

Phase 2 (June – December 2021); The second group of 100 households will be selected from the same sub-counties as Phase 1 to concentrate our efforts and impact on food security and family welfare in the communities where we have started, and to allow for peer-to-peer learning among the gardeners in close proximity.

Three sub-groups of people are to be targeted for this phase;

  1. Grandmothers: These will be older women taking care of vulnerable children – often grand-children left with them when their parents go seeking work in Kampala or other cities, others orphaned from HIV-AIDS, others multi-generational families with single mothers. RCRA will provide lists of possible households to Doreen (also Health Clinic), to visit and check for basic criteria. 30% of total

       30 grandmothers are already scheduled to receive goat each in June, 30 grandchildren have already received scholastic materials (Books, Mathematical set package and pads)

2. Young single mothers: These will be younger mothers (ages 13 – 19) that have given birth early and have had to drop out of school. The Covid-19 lock-downs have exacerbated this problem, with girls staying at home, isolated, subject to domestic sexual abuse, lacking birth control.  These early unwanted pregnancies have led to social, health, nutrition and financial adverse conditions for mothers and their babies that can be partially alleviated with successful kitchen and group gardening.  Gathering young mothers together for training on a regular basis will help to alleviate the social isolation and stigma they face, bringing purpose, hope, and laughter back into their lives.  Data from CDO/Health Center…..25% of total

3. Orphans and other vulnerable children (OVC and HIV program): These are households that are being supported by Baylor to improve the health and economic conditions and education access of OVC children, by offering education support, psychosocial care, and child protection services. From Phase 1, we know that there is still a great unmet demand for kitchen gardens among these households, to be tapped for Phase 2, to improve nutrition and food security of household members, and provide a marketable surplus ..– 45% of total

 

 COMMUNITY GARDENS

Eight additional community gardens will be established, four per sub-county.   Of these eight community gardens:

 

  • One will be at a selected school but the management will belong to a group of women who will be learning from it and taking care of it. Also, pupils will learn from the school garden all of the good management techniques and transfer the knowledge to their respective homes. This will work out as a pilot study to gauge whether we can take up other school gardens in Phase 3.
  • Two community gardens will be for the young single mothers where they can gather with their babies and socialize, in addition to learning and practicing gardening. We will add information on baby and mother nutrition, and healthy baby food preparation for these groups.  Locations will be chosen sufficiently convenient for a group of 10-15 mothers to participate.
  • Five community gardens will be either on public land provided by local government – particularly to serve landless women in Hima and Mubuku, or provided by individual women volunteering their land for use by a group, as for Phase 1.

MMU Interns

Doreen and her two assistants at RCRA will be supported by two Mountains of the Moon University (MMU) intern students from the School of Agriculture and Environment to assist with: 1) monitoring Phase 1 kitchen and community gardens in Maliba, Kyabarungira, Bwesumbu, Hima and Mubuku, 2) providing technical assistance on soil fertility and pest management problems for Phase 1 gardeners, and 3) assist Doreen on providing technical guidance to the Phase 2 gardeners.  They will provide regular reports on their work.  We hope to have MMU interns every year if this first experience (June-July 2021) works out well.

 

A Table – with Tentative numbers of gardens per sub -county, for different sub -groups.

SUBCOUNTY

No. OF KITCHEN GARDENS

No. OF COMMUNITY GARDENS

Mobiliza-tion dates

Nursery establish-ment dates*

Trainings

BWESUMBU

15

1 (young mothers)

May-June

June-July

Pest & disease**

KYABARUNGIRA

30

1

May-June

June-July

 

HIMA

15

2

June-July

July-August

 

MUBUKU

15

3 (young mothers)

June-July

July-August

 

MALIBA

25

1 (school)

June-July

August

 

TOTAL

100

8

 

 

 

*transplanting to mother gardens after rains begin in August……

** as needed