Thursday, 05 November 2020 09:46

The Role of African Leafy Vegetables as Health Boosters among Students and Potential for Improved Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers in Busia County, Western Kenya

Written by 1Harun O. Odhiambo, 2Victor Wasike, 3Nasambu Okoko, 4Lusike Wasilwa,
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1Harun O. Odhiambo, 2Victor Wasike, 3Nasambu Okoko, 4Lusike Wasilwa,

1Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, USAID FtF Intern;

Email: harun_odhiambo@yahoo.com; Cell: 0726-260-500

2Genetic Resources Research Institute; Email: victorwasike58@gmail.com;

Cell: 0722-850-805

3Food Crops Research Institute (FCRI)-Kisii; Email: nasambuokoko@gmail.com;

Cell: 0725-208-008

4KALRO Headquarters; Email:lusike.wasilwa@kalro.org; Cell: 0726-551-561

Corresponding Author: Harun Odhiambo Email: harun_odhiambo@yahoo.com;

Cell: 0726-260-500; USAID FtF Intern, KALRO

 

Abstract

The African indigenous vegetables (AIVs) are a major source of essential nutrients critical in providing a balanced diet. They are rich in micronutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin A, and contain bioactive phytochemicals, which provide protection to the body against disease. Incorporation of African indigenous vegetables into mainstream diets has remained a common practice for meeting cultural, medicinal and nutritional needs. The study conducted between 2015 and 2018 assessed the values of a wide range of African indigenous Vegetables towards the improvementof diets and nutrition among school going age groups within Busia County through a farmer business school (FBS) model. Women and youth headed households that solely depend on smallholder farming for livelihoods were considered. Schools were randomly selected within Busia County on the basis of their willingness to participate in the project. Sensitization in 540 households and 14 schools was carried out to promote the importance of cultivation and consumption of AIVs for improved nutrition and health. A total of 14 smallholder farmer groups with at least 60% women or youths each were trained on improved cooking methods, entrepreneurship and linkages to the markets. Schools and communities were made aware on good agricultural practices, seed production and developing different recipes for incorporation in school meals. Nutrient composition data was used in sensitization activities to raise awareness of their values compared to imported vegetables, cabbages and kales in school feeding programs. In addition, capacity building of farmers and linkage to schools has increased production and consumption of AIVs in households and schools. These have led to increased income at household level from sale of AIVs and improved health in the community and school children. As a result of this training and use of the FBS model, 12 smallholder farmer groups have been linked to 14 schools for the supply of African indigenous under a mutually agreed memorandum of understanding. In addition, in one school, 450 students are feeding on AIVs for lunch 4 times a week one up from none before BFN project intervention.

Keywords:  African indigenous vegetables, farmer business model, livelihoods, biodiversity, nutrition and health.

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