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Boosting nutrition and women’s empowerment through home gardening

August 13, 2017 Written by a HealthBridge guest blogger Agriculture, Health care, Malnutrition, Nutrition, Vietnam Post a comment!

Ky Hoang The,  Statistics Speicialist, HealthBridge Vietnam

By Ky Hoang The, Statistics Specialist, HealthBridge Vietnam

Malnutrition is the number one risk factor in the global burden of disease, and affects one in three people worldwide. Today, 159 million children are short for their age, 50 million are underweight and 264 million women of reproductive age are anaemic because they lack iron.

Although Vietnam has greatly reduced malnutrition among children under five, there is still a high rate of stunting in the North West, where poor diets and food insecurity are common among ethnic minority groups, despite diversity in food crops.

From 8-13 July 2017, I attended the Scientific Symposium on Agriculture, Nutrition and Health and Academy Week in Kathmandu on behalf of the research team that worked on our agriculture and nutrition project. There I presented our poster Changes in Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women and Children in Uplands of Vietnam through Promotion of Agrobiodiversity in Nutrition Education and Home Gardening.

The poster showed results from our cluster randomized control trial with 177 Thai ethnic minority mothers and their children 12-23 months of age, in Mai Son District, Son La Province, North West Vietnam. Research was funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), included our partner Bioversity International, and was led by Jessica Raneri, Nutrition Research Specialist. The year-long trial was designed to be community-based and integrated with the local health care system.

The project identified and encouraged small-hold farmers to:

  • Revise production systems in order to diversify their diets,
  • Take a holistic approach to family diets, and
  • Consider the seasonality of local crops.

The intervention also included nutrition education and cooking demonstrations. It subsidised seeds and seedlings and coached households on gardening techniques that focused on promoting growing and eating a variety of crops in four food groups: dark green leafy vegetables, vitamin A rich vegetables, vitamin A rich fruits and pulses. At the end of the trial, we found a significant difference in diet diversity and quantity of nutritious food consumed by women and children compared to the control group.

Women’s empowerment in home gardening was also promoted, and found to play an important role.  Post-trial, major changes were documented in women’s roles in decision-making alongside men, related to what crops to plant and sell, how to use harvests and what foods to include in diets.

As a researcher on agriculture and nutrition and food systems, I hope that I can apply the knowledge I learned at the symposium in my current research in Vietnam. I would also like to see HealthBridge and Bioversity use this information to develop more sustainable models, such as the Diversity Club, to improve nutrition and diet quality for infants, young children and women in Vietnam.

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