To fight against malnutrition, Rwanda introduced vegetable garden program in 2006 as an innovation to enable families to eat more vegetables and live a healthy lifestyle.
The gardens are based on principles of permaculture and the nutrients of potassium, dietary fibre, folate, vitamin A, E and C. These nutrients are vital for health and maintenance of one’s body.
In Rwanda the gardens commonly known as “uturima tw’igikoni” are built in front or at the back of homesteads and they contain green vegetables like carrots, dodo, cabbages, onions and tomatoes to subsidize on family expenditures in purchasing greens at the market.
At some point the program which was accompanied by initiating Village Kitchens was setback by lack of monitoring and maintenance.
As part of reviving and implementing the garden program, Nyamabage district turned to the private sector partnerships to build more gardens with three models in every village.
Nyamagabe Social Affairs Vice-Mayor, Prisca Mujawayezu said that in 2017 they had very few and inactive vegetable gardens as a result of lack of skills to maintain them.
“To bridge skills’ gap, we built demonstration (demo) gardens near village kitchen to teach mothers how to grow vegetables, but also used the kitchens to learn how to prepare balanced diets,” Mujawayezu said.
At the demo gardens mothers learn tangible skills (gardening) but this doesn’t stop here.
Nutritionist Marie-Alice Nibagwire says the skills are transferred to respective family-based gardens where they plant the same vegetables that are later used to feed their children at Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs).
Nibagwire said they discovered that they don’t have an issue of food, but the knowledge on how to prepare a balanced diet is still wanting.
“After learning how to grow vegetables at home, mothers come at the ECD once a month to learn how to prepare balanced diets because having food and being able to prepare a balanced diet are two different stories,” Nibagwire said.
This family contribution to nutrition is supplemented by children at local ECDs getting fortified foods, porridge and milk under the -Rwanda Stunting Prevention and Reduction Project (SPRP)- a project financed by the World Bank.
The 5-year project (2018-2024) worth $55 million (about Rwf46 billion) will contribute to reduction of stunting rate among children under age five.
The project document envisages a transformational and ambitious engagement in interventions across multiple sectors, leveraging and strengthening existing and new institutional structures to mobilize stakeholders; improve ownership and accountability; and ensure convergence of key interventions at the household and individual levels
The Public-Private Partnership in installing vegetable gardens has for instance seen an increase in numbers of Kitchen gardens from 31,015 (34%) in 2017 to 69, 349 (76%) in 2020 against the set target of 91, 221 in 2024 gardens in Nyamagabe alone.
Taking this ownership further, Mujawayezu said they have also learnt and implemented a strategy of one egg per child, as one of the good nutrition practices from their neighbors in Huye- who implemented the idea as a community based initiative to contribute to the SPRP support.