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
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.