Today, family gardens are seen as one of the most effective ways to overcome food insecurity and malnutrition. They increase the availability of fresh foods throughout the year and they reduce household expenditure on foodstuffs.
The prime objective of family gardens is to make a more varied and richer diet available for a family. In dealing with malnutrition, a holistic approach is called for, equally involving nutrition education, supplementary income generation and improvement in the position of women.
There are now many cases proving the significant impact of family gardens on food security, on raising income and on reducing the number of manifestations of malnutrition. Further, there is clear evidence that these gardens and associated changes in nutritional consumption continue on a sustained basis even after the withdrawal of a development programme.
In the field
Family garden projects will be most accepted and adopted in the community if they mesh with local structures and practice. They revolve around local NGOs who plan and implement the projects – the great majority of which are sponsored by governmental bodies. Through these projects, families get training in the techniques of micro-gardening as well as nutritional education. This includes learning about the importance of sound infant feeding, a diverse diet and consumption of micronutrients.
In addition to their key role in the preparation of meals and infant feeding, women are also the driving force behind the self-help groups in these projects. Micro-gardening can become an income-generating activity through sales of surplus production.
Pilot project in Mali
Situated some 650 km north-east of Bamako, where the Bani joins the Niger river, Mopti well deserves its nickname of “the Venice of Mali”. Just outside the city walls lies a agricultural area of great potential which has, in part, been somewhat neglected in recent years due to a lack of skills and resources. The site was recently handed over by the local community to a project of family gardens, with trialling of Antenna technologies and training facilities in agricultural techniques.
The project aims to set up training facilities in micro-agriculture, as the foundation for a set of community-based family gardens.
- Identification of project stakeholders, and project planning. The project will grow in line with the inputs of identified partners, with its implementation formalised at every step, with correct activities and means.
- Information campaign, using local media, and large-scale mobilisation of people through recruitment of direct and indirect beneficiaries. Those recruited for project implementation will be contracted with specific tasks and deliverable outputs.
- Demonstration phase and transfer of skills. With results becoming visible in demo plots, beneficiaries can start to adopt best practice, to test equipment and to acquire the necessary knowledge for their transfer (later) to their own community.
- Dissemination. Micro-gardens start to take root in the various communities benefitting from the project. In each location, a resource person is appointed as organiser, providing technical support and feedback for project monitoring.
Alain Sossah (Formations Sans Frontières, Mali) in collaboration with Antenna.
Download the complete document: Family gardens against malnutrition, Christophe Hug, Antenna Technologies, 2010