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Nutrition-sensitive Farmer Field Schools in Kenya’s Kalobeyei settlement

Developing the capacity of refugees and host communities to produce, process and consume nutritious food in Turkana County

Agriculture is the main livelihood for the majority of Kenyans, contributing 26 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In rural areas, more than 70 percent of informal employment comes from agriculture. However, in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), recurring droughts and erratic weather patterns have resulted in low productivity, food shortages and price increases, presenting significant roadblocks to nutrition.

Despite progress in recent years, one in every four children under five years old (26 percent of children) in Kenya is impacted by chronic malnutrition, while acute child malnutrition rates remain high in the ASALs. A 2019 nutrition survey in Turkana County, located along the Ugandan border in northwest Kenya, found wasting rates that reached 25.6 percent of children under five. Decades of food assistance have helped prevent famine in these areas, but without sufficiently strengthening local food systems.

Displacement and conflict have further exacerbated malnutrition and food insecurity. Kenya is host to 494 585 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from South Sudan and Somalia. Among those, 186 000 live in Turkana County, for the most part divided between Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement, which is also home to refugees from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda.

Interventions focusing solely on increasing agricultural production have not necessarily translated to improved nutrition or diet. Against that backdrop, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has promoted nutrition-sensitive Farmer Field Schools (FFS) providing community-facilitated training sessions on crop production and livestock, with additional one‑month nutrition modules on producing, processing, preserving and culinary preparation of foods with a high-nutrient content.

Farmer Field Schools (FFS) build on farmers’ existing knowledge of agricultural production using hands-on, participatory and experiential farming activities led by community facilitators in a field-based setting. In Turkana County, FFS were made nutrition-sensitive using:

  • Nutrition outcome indicators looking at the quality of diets;
  • A focus on production of food with a high nutrition value, such as pulses, eggs and vegetables, and;
  • Nutrition training to help households understand how they could use increased food production and income to improve diets and prevent malnutrition.


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