La resiliencia
Keyhole gardens key for improved nutrition

Keyhole gardens key for improved nutrition

17/07/2015

Lesotho faces challenges around nutrition with around 33 percent of the children under five years of age stunted. Official statistics also show that only 11 percent of children between six months and two years meet the criteria for a minimum acceptable diet while half of infants are suffering from some degree of anemia. These drawbacks can be surmounted if communities receive the right information on nutrition as well as support on gardening at the household level.

Lesotho prioritises the fight against hunger and the Government works with several stakeholders on how to improve productivity and nutrition. These efforts have been buttressed by various other instruments aimed at strengthening partnerships between state and non-state actors for promoting technologies, methods and tools for increasing agricultural production and productivity within the broader farming community.

As a result of these partnerships, various stakeholders in Lesotho have come up with a mechanism to equip farmers with the requisite skills in home gardening and information on nutrition. FAO, in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and all members of the Home Gardening and Nutrition Working Group (NGOs, UN agencies and Government institutions) have produced training materials on home gardening and nutrition aimed at enhancing productivity as well as access to information on nutrition.

Joint efforts required

Mr Borja Miguélez, FAO Emergency and Resilience Coordinator, said disseminating information on nutrition as well as equipping farmers with skills on gardening was the first step towards mitigating some of the challenges that the country faced.

“Getting the right information on nutrition practices and concrete ways to produce more diverse food such as keyhole or trench gardens are factors to correct this situation. However, nutrition status is sustained by many elements beyond food availability like health, water and sanitation and feeding practices. This complexity calls for joint efforts by all stakeholders. This explains our interest to work with extension staff and schools,” said Mr Miguélez.

The training materials produced focused on messages revolving around healthy eating, diversifying crops, improving productivity and the importance of growing food at home. They are being distributed widely across schools, farmers, agricultural resource centres as well as other stakeholders involved in agriculture, food security and nutrition. They were produced with funding from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

King Letsie III – the Lesotho Monarch and Africa’s Nutrition Champion – has shown how his country prioritises eradication of hunger and increased nutrition by consistently highlighting how this could be achieved at various forums. This includes the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) last year where he met the FAO Director-General, Mr José Graziano da Silva, and reiterated how countries in Africa are still confronted with multiple burdens of malnutrition, including the high rates of stunting, wasting and micronutrient deficiencies.

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