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Maximizing smallholder productivity and combating malnutrition in Rwanda

Gardens for Health's innovative curriculum minimizes waste and improves health outcomes for malnourished children of Rwandan smallholders.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Upon enrollment, our partner families earn an average of 3.30 USD per week and have limited access to external agricultural inputs. So it is crucial that they maximize their resources and minimize waste. Our curriculum encourages low-input agricultural practices and the cycling of agricultural outputs back into home garden systems, and our lessons boost the impact of each input we provide in our Home Garden Packages. Our Field Educators teach families how to conserve, organize, and save. Specifically, Field Educators train families on post-harvest seed saving as a means for improved agricultural self-sufficiency and reduced waste. Our partners work in their gardens to identify the plants they’d like to replicate next season. Then, Field Educators work with them to develop strategies for preserving the selected seeds and cuttings, decreasing agricultural waste and increasing crop output with each planting. Families spend less money on new seeds, and can instead concentrate their resources on achieving dietary diversity - and biodiversity – in their homes and gardens. Our curriculum also encourages families to recycle any would-be agricultural waste into natural compost: partners add otherwise non-useful plant matter to compost piles, where it mixes with the manure of small livestock we provide and is added to each planting. This creates a closed system of soil enrichment and agricultural productivity, putting partners on the path to health and agricultural self-sufficiency.

WHO BENEFITS?

Each year we work with over 2,000 families from Rwandan farming communities, where rates of under-5 chronic malnutrition are highest. These families depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Our innovative curriculum, targeted agricultural support, and emphasis on community ownership empower them to turn their home gardens into efficient systems of diverse food production. They often become leaders among their neighbors, sharing innovative agricultural methods as pathways to success.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

Gardens for Health partners with 18 government health centers in 2 districts of Rwanda, where we work with smallholder farm families to solve chronic malnutrition through community-driven agriculture. Rwanda is an IDEO-eligible country.

ARE YOU IMPLEMENTING IN AN ELIGIBLE COUNTRY?

  • Yes

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU!

At Gardens for Health International, we believe that agriculture can – and must – be part of the solution to malnutrition. Since 2010 we’ve partnered with Rwandan government health centers to empower partners with the seeds, knowledge & support they need to overcome malnutrition over the long term.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

Since 2010, input from the communities and smallholders with whom we partner, as well as expertise from agricultural experts (both local and international), have informed the development of our curriculum centered on eliminating waste. On our 5-acre Demonstration and Innovation Farm just outside of Kigali, we multiply inputs for our Home Garden Packages, trial new species that may enhance our program, and house demonstration gardens that recreate the real-world conditions that partners face. It is on this farm, this living laboratory, that the facets of our curriculum focused on efficiency and waste elimination were first developed. In 2013 we took our Health Center Program to scale across 2 Rwandan districts, increasing our reach from 8 to 18 partner health centers, and more than doubling our efforts. As we have engaged with more families than ever before, across more diverse climates and soils, we have come to recognize how vital it is for our partners to run maximally efficient home garden systems. Thus, our curricula regarding cutting waste, including composting, seed-saving, and more, have continued to evolve each season to fit partner families’ needs.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

Many initiatives aimed at improving agricultural productivity are primarily centered on increased crop yield and income generation. While those are important goals for smallholders, Gardens for Health’s primary mission is the improved health and wellbeing of our partner families. Our goal is to combat childhood malnutrition by going beyond crop yields, and emphasizing nutrition-focused and low input agriculture. A family’s wellbeing, including agricultural success, can be hindered by the intersectional health obstacles that farming families face. Thus, we approach health and agriculture as inextricable issues, employing an integrated approach across our program. Our model not only reduces the waste in a partner mother’s home garden, but that also empowers her to improve her yield of amaranth, a local leafy green, and shows her how to incorporate it into a healthy meal. Add in the knowledge and support needed to tackle diverse agricultural and health obstacles, and you have a roadmap for success. There are few initiatives for smallholders that are as intensive and comprehensive as Gardens for Health’s model, because we have realized that there is no silver bullet for malnutrition.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

We’ve implemented our integrated approach, including our waste-reduction measures, with success across our 18 partner communities. Our staff of more than 100+ professionals – over 90% of whom are Rwandan – are responsible for the deployment of our model. Our Field Educators, 36 community leaders like Innocent (see video), are the central figures in the implementation of our program. They are the devoted leaders working with partners to tailor unique combinations of knowledge, skills and support.

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

Since Gardens for Health’s beginnings, we have recognized the primacy of local expertise in combatting malnutrition. Our small founding team leased 5 acres outside of Kigali and began running agricultural trials – this was the origin of our farm. Two Rwandan agronomists joined the team to ensure that the technical aspects of our work matched the local climate and soil. Most importantly, local women joined our staff at the outset. These women had struggled with challenges similar to those of our partner families, including malnutrition. This team built Gardens for Health into what it is today; with a model that has consistently made the feedback of our partners our number one priority. We don’t simply soliciting feedback from stakeholders and then move on. We often make those stakeholders leaders on our team. We gather consistent feedback from the families with whom we work through regular surveys, home visits, and interviews. We use those communications as a starting point for implementing change in our program, season after season. Our model is not simply changed by beneficiary feedback, it has been completely shaped by, and adapted to the needs of, our partner families.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

We have proven our model to be both flexible and resilient, overcoming obstacles from a variety of sources. But we’re asking how this model will withstand a changing climate, and how continued scale-up would affect our curriculum. Rwanda emits greenhouse gases at a lower rate than almost any other country in the world, yet is warming faster than the global average. These climactic changes highlight efficiency in our home garden model as key to maximizing families' resources in unfamiliar conditions. We are driven by our strong partnership with the Rwandan government, and are exploring different ways to disseminate our curriculum. How can our model reach the largest number of people possible?

WHY DO YOU THINK THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HASN'T BEEN SOLVED YET?

Our partners are smallholder farmers who come to our trainings armed with unmatched knowledge of how best to use their environments. Our program is unique in its goal to build on and channel their agricultural experience into maximizing their productivity and targeting their home garden production toward nutrition. Rwandan smallholders often produce staple crops at home, and many do not maximize the waste from this production to the benefit of their home garden systems, and, ultimately, their families' nutrition. Our program emphasizes that a garden centered around dietary diversity, with a focus on maximizing productivity and minimizing waste, is the path toward better health.

WHAT WOULD YOU ULTIMATELY LIKE TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS IDEA? WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP TO GET THERE?

In addition to focusing on the communities with which we have maintained strong partnerships, our goals for the future involve amplifying our advocacy and partnership efforts so that malnutrition interventions throughout Rwanda incorporate efficient agricultural systems. We're exploring and testing ways to disseminate our curriculum to strengthen the Rwandan health system, including using our model to train government community health workers (CHWs) working outside of our current program reach.

MEMBERS OF MY TEAM HAVE BEEN WORKING TOGETHER FOR:

  • More than a year

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Above $1,000,000

In Rwanda, agriculture is a way of life, with more than 85% of the population cultivating as a primary means of subsistence. Yet nationwide, 38% of children are chronically malnourished, and in many communities the rate is even higher. Gardens for Health bridges the disconnect between agriculture and proper nutrition for farming families in Rwanda, empowering them with the seeds, knowledge and support they need to keep their children healthy.

We partner with government-run health centers to identify malnourished children, and we enroll their caregivers, mainly smallholder farmers, in our program. For the next 14 weeks, they come together for comprehensive health trainings and targeted agricultural support. The agriculture and health curricula we deliver are focused on improving family health, and improving dietary diversity and biodiversity for smallholder farmers. Lessons cover a wide array of topics that build out smallholder farms into more productive and diverse agricultural systems. Families also select their own Home Garden Package, which includes seeds, seedlings, and small livestock that increase a family’s ability to cultivate and prepare healthy, balanced meals for their children.

The support doesn’t stop there. Our Field Educators, who come from the communities they serve, visit each family in their home to clarify details of the trainings, create bonds of trust, and tailor our curriculum to the situation of each family. After our partners complete training and graduate from our program, we provide additional inputs for their home gardens and follow-up visits for 2 subsequent seasons. In sum, each family we work with receives a full year of support from Gardens for Health that is focused on enhancing family agricultural systems for long-term success, and equipping smallholders with roadmaps out of malnutrition.

We recognize that the provision of seeds, in a vacuum, will do little to assist families in their journey to improved livelihoods. That is why we couple our seed package with education around low-input agricultural practices and waste-reduction techniques that are designed to be extremely efficient for the smallholders we serve. Each lesson in our training curriculum focuses on a specific health or agriculture topic, and our sessions about preserving seeds and using agricultural waste for compost are essential topics for our partner families. For these smallholders, waste reduction is a vital opportunity to ensure healthy and productive futures.

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Spam
Photo of jin yi
Team

good web https://lasvegas.adlist24.com/escorts

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Gardens for Health Team!

The Amplify team and our experts have some feedback for you:

How does this idea differ from the work that your organization usually does? Have you already developed the materials and and structure for the trainings?

The main key challenge I could envision with this project is that the knowledge offered might already known/employed. Do you have a sense of whether this is the case?

What timeframe do you envision for this project? 

Looking forward to learning more! 

Spam
Photo of Gardens for Health International
Team

Hi, Chioma Ume ! Thanks for your fantastic questions from the team and experts!



-We're always incorporating feedback into our model with user-centered curriculum redesigns, because ensuring that our curriculum not only matches with the most current knowledge on nutrition and low-input agriculture, but also works for our partner families and their unique situations, is vital to our partners' success. Minimizing waste within our program and maximizing resources for our partners has always been a goal for our team, but continuing to successfully integrate and emphasize composting, seed-saving, and more interventions is a recent priority.
Our program materials and trainings do already mention our efficiency measures, but we're looking forward to incorporating our newest feedback, which is more intentional about emphasizing waste elimination, as we undertake a new curriculum revamp in the coming months.



-As stated above, our partners come from a variety of different backgrounds with regard to agricultural knowledge, but most are highly adept at producing crops – often staple crops – in their home gardens. We don’t merely distribute seeds and livestock; what is unique about our model is its integration across agriculture, health, and specifically, nutrition. We’re using malnutrition prevention as an entry point to discuss intersecting topics, from preventing erosion and increasing agricultural productivity, to stopping infectious disease and gender-based violence, and growing and preparing healthy meals for a partner family every day. A model this comprehensive, that views the minimization of agricultural waste as inextricable from the healthy long-term development of a child, has never been attempted before. And teaching about efficient, waste-free home gardens as health systems – generally a new concept for our partners -- is key to realizing our vision.



-While our work is ongoing, we’re imagining a 1-year timeframe for this initiative, beginning in September 2016.

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Thanks for your answers! 

Spam
Photo of Anne-Marie A
Team

We have the same vision on how to improve nutrition health in Rwanda.  I would be interested to know in which district you implement your activities. Thank you!

Spam
Photo of Gardens for Health International
Team

Hi Anne-Marie! Our headquarters and farm is located just outside Kigali in Ndera, Gasabo District. Four of our partner health centers are also in Gasabo. The other fourteen partner health centers are in Musanze District. Where are you operating?

Spam
Photo of Anne-Marie A
Team

We implement a Nutrition Education and Counselling project in the 6 refugee camps in Rwanda, in Gatsibo, Gicumbi, Karongi, Kirehe, Nyamagabe and Gisagara districts. The first phase of our project is planned to be implemented in Gihembe camp (Byumba town). I would be interested to visit your office and discuss further collaboration, if you are also interested.

Spam
Photo of Chioma Ume
Team

Hi Gardens for Health Team!
I notice you haven't filled in the answers to the new phase questions yet. Friendly reminder to do so before the phase ends next week. Remember that the 'full description' field won't be visible to any of your readers.

Cheers!
Chioma

Spam
Photo of Vegetable Resource Centre
Team

This is a great idea. Keep up.

Spam
Photo of biganiro fidel
Team

important idea to support