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Getting the right message about nutrition

Since March 2016, the World Vegetable Center and partners from the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), the Kakamega County government, the University of Bonn, the Anglican Development Service, Welthungerhilfe, Simlaw Seeds and the Kenyan National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) have been testing new approaches to deliver nutrition information to smallholder farmers.

After conducting a baseline survey in July 2016, the project team developed two nutrition messages that will be tested in sixteen farmer groups in Kakamega County. One message emphasizes nutrition and offers advice on improving daily diets in farm households. The other message focuses on integrating nutrition concepts in crop production training sessions, including information about the seasonal availability of different food products and the necessity of diversifying agricultural production.

In January 2017, 33 employees of the public extension service, the NGO sector, GIZ, and a private seed company learned how to disseminate the two messages to smallholder farmers in the pilot groups. All pilot group participants will receive a seed kit containing five indigenous vegetables (amaranth, vegetable cowpea, African nightshade, spider plant, jute mallow). Along with the kits, five groups will receive nutrition message I, five other groups will receive nutrition message II, and six groups will receive no message. Both messages will be delivered through each dissemination channel. Hence, messages will be delivered by the public extension officers and NGOs (10 groups) and by the seed company (6 groups).

An endline survey planned for the end of 2017 should reveal whether the nutrition messages lead to more significant behavioral changes in household diets than a distribution of seed kits alone. It will also allow us to evaluate which message works better for the public extension service, and which is more suitable for private seed companies. The work is supported by a grant from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Story and photos: Andreas Gramzow

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Project partners from the public extension service, development organizations and Simlaw Seeds practice delivering nutrition message II.

Pulling an all-nighter to pack seed kits for 1500 smallholder farmers.

Project partners practicing the nutrition messages in small groups.