This insightful study was conducted by Jostas Mwebembezi, Executive Director, Rwenzori Center for Research and Advocacy, Kasese, Uganda, Rebecca Gerny, Student of Global Studies, University of California, Berkeley, USA and Dr. Robin Marsh, Senior Researcher, Institute for the Study of Societal Issues, University of California, Berkeley, USA.
The authors reported that nearly eighty percent of Kasese District residents in Western Uganda pursue subsistence farming on the slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains where soil erosion and poverty contribute to declining agricultural yields, food insecurity, and high rates of stunting and wasting in children.
In 2017, the Rwenzori Center for Research and Advocacy (RCRA) began a pilot home garden program aimed at sustainably improving nutrition for vulnerable households in Kasese.
In 2019, the research team investigated whether a home garden intervention for nutritional benefit is an effective entry point to achieve broad household welfare.
Data were collected from fifty randomly selected households in four sites with varied degrees of exposure to the garden intervention. Methods included a questionnaire, innovative card sorting game (CSG), 24-hour recall nutrition survey, in-depth interviews, and case stories of diverse Kasese women.
The study findings shows that households experience diverse garden benefits and challenges depending upon baseline conditions, such as access to land, water, and money, as well as the quality and consistency of the technical and material support received.
The frequency of vegetable consumption per day showed the most consistently positive results across households, while a 24-hour nutrition survey displayed increased consumption of leafy green vegetables high in iron and vitamin A among families with gardens, leading to ‘stronger children’ (CSG scenario) and improved family health. Further, over seventy percent of families generated income from their gardens, though varying widely in capacity to sell year-round.
The garden income earned by women gardeners is spent almost entirely on child welfare. On average, more than ninety percent of garden households save ten percent of their income, primarily through Village Savings Groups.
Therefore, regarding their research question, there was evidence to affirm that a home garden intervention for nutritional benefit can be an effective entry point to achieve broad household welfare. This conclusion is supported by numerous previous studies on garden initiatives for improved nutrition around the world.
This research project has contributed to a new initiative for RCRA, called “1,000 Women’s Gardens for Health and Nutrition”, that will bring the multiple benefits of kitchen and community gardens to village women and their families throughout Kasese District. The initiative is well underway and interested people can follow it’s progress here.