Smart Food nutrition activities kick off in Kenya

Feb 28, 2017 | 0 comments

To improve the nutritional status of women in the reproductive age and children below five years, an awareness drive under the Smart Food campaign has been launched in selected counties in Kenya. The aim is to promote increased consumption of nutrient dense, drought tolerant crops (sorghum, millets, pigeonpea, groundnut, cowpea and green gram) and appropriate dietary practices in the project areas using social behavior change communication approaches.

The Smart Food team in Kenya will support the initiative, by disseminating nutrition knowledge with a focus on the first 1000 days of life. Various communication channels will be used specific to the community needs. As reported in the Kenya Demographic Health Survey (KDHS) 2014, stunting stands at 26% and is highest in children aged 18-23 months (36%). This indicates that to avert malnutrition there is a need for awareness building on complementary feeding and the need to fully utilize the 1000-day window.

The Smart Food campaign aims at

  • Increasing the levels of awareness and utilization of millets and pulses;
  • Promoting proper infant and young child feeding practices and dietary diversity of women of reproductive age; and
  • Changing attitudes and practices that contribute to malnutrition in the selected communities.
  • To raise political and social leadership commitment to the Smart Food agenda, a task force has been formed with representatives from the ministries of Health, Agriculture and Education and ICRISAT. The objective of the task force is to develop a joint roadmap for the Smart Food campaign which includes the following activities:
  • Train focal persons in the ministries and leaders of social organizations in the counties to sensitize communities (using existing structures) with key MIYCN (maternal, infant and young child nutrition) messages and educate them on the nutrition value and health benefits of smart foods.
  • Hold a food and nutrition fair to create awareness about MIYCN and health benefits of smart foods
  • Sensitize communities using local radio programs and jingles.
  • Engage the First Ladies of the counties to drive the smart food nutrition agenda within their communities.
  • Work with existing social structures to train women and youth on Smart Food recipes for diversification of diets.
  • Ride on existing school events and competitions (drama, science congress, music festivals, athletics) to educate youth on nutrition and promote smart foods.
  • Sensitize early childhood development teachers and decision makers from hospitals, orphanages, local schools and restaurants on the nutritional benefits of smart foods (including Board of Directors/Management).
  • Train chefs/cooks of local institutions – restaurants, schools, hospitals, orphanages on Smart Food recipes and on appropriate technologies.
  • Organize a sensitization workshop for small and micro enterprises in the county on opportunities in product development using smart foods, training on food safety, quality standards and quality assurance, and initiate linkage with other influential players.
  • Educate urban consumers on nutrition and smart foods through social media.
  • Develop a cooking show that educates people on nutrition and promote smart foods.
  • Enlist support from the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, H.E. Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta, to promote nutrition through the Smart Food campaign

The strategic approaches adopted to improve the nutritional status are to improve access (physical and economic) to diverse quality food and support improved utilization of maternal and child health, and nutrition services. These will be realized alongside other objectives of increasing productivity of value chains and improving markets and expanded trade for the value chains.

Recently, 3-day Training of Trainers (ToT) workshops were conducted at Makueni, Elgeyo, Marakwet and Siaya. The trainings focused on agri-nutrition, MIYCN and on appropriate social behavior change approaches to be used during the cascade training down to the communities.

The strategy is to use existing government structures to transfer nutrition education by training various actors including agricultural extensions, health workers, teachers, community health volunteers, etc. The cascade trainings will also include other influencers like grandmothers, men, religious leaders, community elders and pupils/students.

Some topics covered during the training included: proper food choices and combinations, applied nutrition (selecting, preparing, cooking and distributing within households), classification of nutrients and their functions, definitions of malnutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight, overweight/obesity and micronutrient deficiencies), examples of diet related non-communicable diseases (signs and symptoms, dietary management), nutrition in the lifespan (pregnancy, newborn, infancy,  etc.), food hygiene, meal planning, and energy efficient cooking.

Prior to the ToT, a formative study was carried out in 5 of the 6 counties during April 2016, to seek inputs from mothers with children below 5 years through focused group discussions. About 244 mothers participated in the formative study and were sensitized on agri-nutrition with a special focus on smart foods. The process helped the team identify and understand the characteristics of the target communities’ (their interests, behaviors and needs) that influence their eating habits.

The Nutrition Pathways map below depicts how ICRISAT is working to improve nutrition status of women and children in Kenya.