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Addressing challenges of seasonality through value addition
Undernutrition (macro- or micronutrients deficiency) among smallholders is, in most cases, seasonal. Seasonality in malnutrition is caused by many factors including, diseases (some associated with agriculture activities), high labour (affecting energy expenditure and time for child care and cooking good meals), sanitation/hygiene—also affected by seasonal water and fuel availability. Seasonality also affects two major factors in diet quality: access to nutritious foods (fruits and vegetables, and animal protein sources) and food safety. What can agriculture interventions do to minimize undernutrition variation associated with seasonality? The conventional innovations in agriculture would be to provide simple, affordable, irrigation approaches; agronomical methods that preserve water for growing of vegetables; drought resistant varieties or preservation methods of the excess.
I recall an innovation in Kenya in late 1990s by the Nutrition CRSP—with funding provided by the Centre for Higher Education of the United States Agency for International Development—that enabled over 2000 rural Kenyan women farmers to produce a variety of nutritious fruits and vegetables. The intervention also helped cooperatives of women to add value to their produce by processing and locally marketing nutritious, convenient, culturally-appropriate complementary feeds. The women worked with researchers from local and northern universities to produce feeds of composite flours from (solar dried) the fruits/local vegetables and cereals, and in other areas animal source protein was included in the locally formulated recipes. Researchers support ensured quality and sensory needs of the market are met at acceptable price throughout the year.