The promise and challenges of vegetable home gardening for improving nutrition and household welfare: New evidence from Kasese District, Uganda

The promise and challenges of vegetable home gardening for improving nutrition and household welfare: New evidence from Kasese District, Uganda

Abstract

Nearly eighty percent of Kasese District residents in Western Uganda pursue subsistence farming on the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains where soil erosion and poverty contribute to declining agricultural yields, food insecurity, and high rates of stunting and wasting in children. In 2017, the Rwenzori Center for Research and Advocacy (RCRA) began a pilot home garden program aimed at sustainably improving nutrition for vulnerable households in Kasese. In 2019, the research team investigated whether a home garden intervention for nutritional benefit is an effective entry point to achieve broad household welfare. Data were collected from fifty randomly selected households in four sites with varied degrees of exposure to the garden intervention. Methods included a questionnaire, innovative card sorting game (CSG), 24-hour recall nutrition survey, indepth interviews, and case stories of diverse Kasese women.

 

Conclusion

This research shows the promise of small vegetable gardens to improve vegetable consumption, dietary diversity, income, and savings of gardening households. In some cases, the findings show improved food security from year-round garden sales and mitigation of lean season hunger. An important result from the 24-hour nutrition recall survey, confirmed by the selection of cards in the CSG and questionnaire responses, is the higher consumption of leafy green vegetables high in iron and vitamin A among families with gardens, leading to ‘stronger children’ and improved family health. Therefore, regarding our research question, there is evidence to affirm that a garden intervention for nutritional benefit can be an effective entry point to achieve broad household welfare. This conclusion is supported by many previous studies on garder initiatives for improved nutrition around the world [24].

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