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.