Home | TheWaterBlog

TheWaterBlog: If you want to share unique images and observations in this section, or would like to know about syndicating these posts, send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

 

Health gardens 

by Letty Fajardo Vera and Frank van Steenbergen
January 15, 2019

Whatever progress happens on the surface, statistics are harrowing. Ethiopia is still an epicentre of malnutrition.  Though figures have improved over the last 15 years, UNICEF Global Databases on Infant and Young Child Feeding show that about 38% and 10% of Ethiopian children under five years of age are stunted and wasted respectively. Among children between 5 to 19 years old, 36% of girls and 22% of boys are underweight. On top of overall malnutrition come nutrient deficiencies: Iron Deficiency Anaemia (IDA), Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), and Iodine Deficiency Disorder (IDD).

There is also an iron-clad  chain here: a vicious intergenerational circle. A malnourished mother will give birth to a low birth-weight baby, the low-weight baby will grow as a malnourished child, then to a malnourished teenager, then to a malnourished pregnant woman, and so the circle continues. Poor nutritional status of woman both before and during pregnancy results in children being underweight when they are born. Malnutrition goes beyond physical health. It is related to poor school performance and low productivity of individuals. Malnutrition reduces children’s ability to learn, think and become creative.

Wasting, or thinness, is an indicator of acute (short-term) malnutrition. Wasting is usually the result of recent food insecurity, infection or acute illness such as diarrhoea. Measurement of wasting or thinness is often used to assess the severity of an emergency situation, with severe wasting being strongly linked with the death of a child.

Stunting, or shortness, is an indicator of chronic (long-term) malnutrition. It is often associated with poor development during childhood and is one of the harmful effects of poverty. Stunting is commonly used as an indicator for development, as it is strongly related to poverty.

Underweightness is an indicator of both acute and chronic malnutrition. Underweightness is a highly useful indicator when examining nutritional trends.

Poor diets might be due to insufficient food, or a lack of variety of foods, infrequent meals, insufficient breastmilk and early weaning. Malnutrition is not the single consequence of a single factor but a mixture of different causes: inadequate care of children and women; poor health services; too many children in a family to feed; food shortage due to small land sizes, low productivity, landlessness (especially among young families) and spending on non-essential things like khat (on the rise), beer (on the rise) or cigarettes. The composition of the diet is also a major factor. In Ethiopia, look at the figures of the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation: even compared to rest of Africa the intake of fruit and vegetables is extremely low. The same is true for essential nutrients such as Calcium or Omega 3.

In all of this is a huge paradox. In spite of all the shortages, there are plenty of opportunities.  Many Ethiopian villages are nutrition deserts, but they should not be.  Unlike Asian villages, there are no home gardens. There is no cultivation of vegetables or trees around the houses that could make a difference in sourcing food, nutrition or medicine. Similarly there is not much village poultry. They are strangely missing from the landscape and there is a strong case to change this and develop homestead gardens that provide food that feeds the body and mind.

Vitamin B, Vitamin E and vitamin K, Omegas 3, minerals like zinc and chromium, all boost health and cognitive power. One gets them from nuts and seeds, small red beans, eggs, kale and certain tree crops. These are available in Ethiopia but are not part the courtyard activities. Kale is a special one – common in Ethiopia food – providing more than the daily requirement for vitamins K, A and C; as well Omega 3; and  minerals like potassium, copper and manganese, fibe and Omega 3. Eggs are important providerrs of vitamins B6 and B12, folate and choline (63). Choline is an important micronutrient that helps regulate mood and memory. Nuts (including peanuts) and seeds are good sources of vitamin E, that help cognitive capability. Moringa the superfood trees occurs in many parts of Ethiopia but is not standard around the houses. Its nutritious leaves increase spatial memory, are highly nutritious and anti-inflammatory. Avocado is another good contender. It is rich in monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow good for all organs including the brain. Then there are fountains of Vitamin C that could do a lot of good: papaya and vegetables.

There is a strong case to fill the empty courtyards and schoolyards and tackle malnutrition at the source. Creating such health gardens needs a concerted effort – a change in awareness, skills and mindset. It has been done in other countries in cooperation by government and communities. It can be done in Ethiopia as well.

  • Broody: the Essential Art of Hatching

    Broody: the Essential Art of Hatching by Frank van Steenbergen and Reinier VeldmanJanuary 13, 2020'Hazol' hatching pans developed in Bangladesh (left), adapted to Ethiopian conditions (right)The difference a village chicken can make to the life of a poor woman is amazing. A safe source of income, independent capital asset, universal delicacy, main source of protein, eggs ranks high in the list of...

    Read more

  • Locust threat averted in Sindh, Pakistan

    Locust threat averted in Sindh, PakistanBy Gulsher Panhwer, Research and Development Foundation (RDF), Flood Based Livelihoods Network (FBLN ) Pakistan chapter, contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. document.getElementById('cloaked3f0b714112413a02f0a43b984900ba').innerHTML = ''; var prefix = 'ma' + 'il' + 'to'; ...

    Read more

  • From the mother of all ponds: road water harvesting in Masala, Ethiopia

    From the mother of all ponds: road water harvesting in Masala, Ethiopia By Francesco Sambalino and Cecilia BorgiaJanuary 03, 2020West Hararghe has been for centuries at the cross road of cultures and agro ecological zones. Its specific conditions made West Hararghe and especially Masala woreda a producer of top quality coffee and khat. Nevertheless the rugged terrain poses a challenge in regards ...

    Read more

  • Locust in Yemen: a plague or an opportunity?

    Locust in Yemen: a plague or an opportunity?Yemen, war, Cholera outbreaks, malnutrition, poverty, secession and locust outbreaks, these are the keywords in all the talk about Yemen currently. In times of war, people are vulnerable and exposed to harm more than any other times, and with high poverty rates, unemployment and population growth, it is getting more devastating. Summer in Yemen is recog...

    Read more

  • Man-made pastures

    Man-made pasturesPostcard from Nthia, Makueni County, KenyaBy Theophilus Kioko, Nancy Kadenyi & Luwieke BosmaClimate variability and change comes with its bowl of impacts, especially on farmers who rely entirely on rainfall to grow their crops. Farmers in arid to semi-arid lands (ASAL) are often ‘agro-pastoralist’: combining crops with extensive livestock keeping. In the last 5 decades cro...

    Read more

  • Sponge Town: KwaVonza residents in the driver seat

    Post Card from Sponge Town KwaVonzaKwaVonza residents in the driver seatby Luwieke Bosma, Nancy Kadenyi & Theophilus KiokoOctober 31, 2019Welcome to the town of KwaVonza in Kitui County, the semi-arid part of Kenya!When it rains, it rains much. This water is taken out the soonest, following the current planning paradigm, causing floods and erosion. On the other hand, in the dry season this le...

    Read more

  • Viriditas

    ViriditasFrank van SteenbergenAugust 26, 2019She is one of the most remarkable persons of the 12th century, a mediaeval Leonardo da Vinci, genius, visionary, prolific writer, scientist, composer of music, inventor of scripts and words, a unique and headstrong leader: Hildegard von Bingen. Hildegard’s  story begins in 1098. She is born in a family of lower nobility. From early age Hildegard has...

    Read more

  • Mindsets

    MindsetsFrank van SteenbergenAugust 26, 2019The 'Yalla Model' being explainedPost card from Yatta, Kenya.  Faith can be a healer. Not because God comes to the rescue, but because the belief in Him changes mindsets: the belief in abundance, the belief that we are resilient and that we are here to help, not to be helped. is is very much the story of the Yatta in Machakos County in Kenya. Yatta was...

    Read more

  • Yemen: poor sanitation Infrastructure in times of war

    Yemen: poor sanitation infrastructure in times of warby Nada al Dahmashi :: August 09, 2019It is well-known that war can only result in destruction and devastation. In a country that is already grieving from weak infrastructure, it was clear that war will aggravate  hunger, diseases, and the need for fundamental services.The sanitation networks in Yemen weren’t sufficient even before the war Pe...

    Read more

  • Spirulina: Opportunities for nutrition and livelihoods in Ethiopia

    Spirulina: Opportunities for nutrition and livelihoods in Ethiopiaby Jean Marc Pace RicciJuly 23, 2019Spirulina has been used as food for centuries by different populations all over the world and recently has been rediscovered as a food supplement. Its high protein, vitamin, and nutrient content, as well as rapid growth rates have attracted the attention of nutritionists and farmers alike.Spirulin...

    Read more