The Smart Food initiative takes two approaches targeting key audiences:
1. Promoting dietary diversity and utilization of Smart Food in rural communities of Kenya
ICRISAT, in collaboration with the Egerton University, KALRO and the county departments of agriculture and health and partners, is working in six counties in Kenya, including Busia, Siaya, Elgeyo Marakwet, Kitui, Makueni and Tharaka Nithi to promote dietary diversity and consumption of Smart Food. Some of the current activities include:
- Nutrition education of county government staff and community leaders
- Sensitization of communities on the importance of dietary diversity, nutritional value and health benefits of Smart Food. This is being done through the use of behavior change communication approaches – food and nutrition fairs, community radio, mother-to-mother support groups, etc.
- Working with existing social structures to train women and youth on Smart Food recipes for diet diversification.
The nutrition activities are mapped along 3 nutrition impact pathways:
- Educating the local population on the importance of dietary diversity, and encouraging them to reserve produce for the household consumption.
- Social marketing approaches are being used to build markets for cereals and legumes,
- Supporting women with knowledge and skills on nutrition, energy saving technologies/innovations, and income generating activities.
To implement this program, ICRISAT forged partnerships with a variety of stakeholders in the six counties, specifically partners from the departments of education, health and agriculture.
Low awareness about the nutritional value of these foods as well as lack of knowledge on how to prepare them has been getting in the way of adoption of these foods in the communities. The project team therefore incorporated participatory cooking sessions into the training workshops to equip communities with skills to prepare diverse delicious meals which has helped change perceptions towards these traditional grains.
The project team has so far trained over 10,000 people in Kenya through 2-day nutrition workshops; trained over 8,000 women farmers through participatory cooking classes where they were introduced to new recipes and energy efficient innovations; and reached over 80,000 households with nutrition messages through a variety of behavior change communications activities. Through these activities, the initiative has impacted over 21,000 children below 2 years with nutrition messages through their parents. All these activities are geared towards impacting on nutrition incomes of the rural communities and increasing utilization of nutritious traditional grain.
The project has registered considerable success. In only one year for example, women’s and children’s behavior changed significantly towards a more micronutrient diet. This is indicated by an increase by 15.4% of the dietary diversity score for women and of 79.5% of the children’s dietary diversity score.
2. Promoting utilization of Smart Food targeting consumers nationwide
ICRISAT is working with several key influencers to educate Kenyans on the importance of dietary diversity with a special focus on the highly nutritious Smart Food.
This is being done through social media campaigns and television reality shows, workshops, and marketing.
The overall goal of the campaign targeting urban consumers is to promote utilization of Smart Food for better nutrition and to create a demand pull for Smart Food, thereby benefiting smallholder farmers.
In Kenya, the Smart Food initiative is implemented by ICRISAT and a variety of partners including:
- Egerton University
- Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO)
- County Departments of Agriculture and Health – Busia, Siaya, Tharaka Nithi, Makueni, Kitui and Elgeyo Marakwet
- Nairobi Technical Training Institute
- Kenyan Kitchen
- Sankara Hotel
- Strathmore University