In Rwanda, approximately 44 percent of children are stunted due to malnutrition. While Rwandan families are encouraged to prevent malnutrition, most rural communities lack the ingredients and knowledge to prepare a balanced diet. In most cases, they grapple with lack of other basic needs and end up giving little attention to the quality of food they eat.
This was the state of life for 40-year-old Christine Irankunda and her community in Rwanda’s Western province until early 2013. That's when she enrolled in USAID’s Ejo Heza, or "brighter future," project. The five-year project, which began in 2011, aims to improve the livelihoods and food consumption of 75,000 Rwandans, particularly women. It provides training and creates community groups to disseminate nutrition messaging and promote kitchen gardening and improved food handling to help reduce malnutrition in the country.
Through her involvement, Irankunda became a member of the Icyerekezo, or "vision," nutrition group, which provided her and 15 others from her community with nutrition training and assistance to establish kitchen gardens through local volunteers. Because damage from malnutrition often takes place in the first 1,000 days of life, participants also receive information on child nutrition including breastfeeding and nutrition for pregnant and lactating mothers.
Following the training, the volunteers helped the group establish a community kitchen garden to practice what they had been learning. Within only three months, Irankunda’s family, as well as each of her group members, had access to a bounty of new and healthy homegrown vegetables and fruits.
“The training in nutrition support changed our lives. We’re able to have vegetables throughout the year. Our children are now assured of a balanced diet," remarked one member of the nutrition group.
Irankunda now has a bountiful garden of her own that boasts eggplants, cabbage and onions, among other things. It is the addition of healthy foods like these into their typical diet that has improved the health of her family of four.
Using their own kitchen gardens for demonstrations, members of the Icyerekezo nutrition group can now share their knowledge and teach other community members to grow nutrient-rich foods at their homes.
Last updated: January 16, 2015