NUTRITION AND HOME VEGETABLE GARDENS

Project: Nutrition and Home Vegetables Gardens Programme
Area: Health Care
Coordinator: Jeanne Cussen

Description: The Nutrition Department at Etafeni aims to contribute towards the Millennium Development Goals set out by heads of state in 2000 to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and reduce childhood mortality.

Programme Goal: To improve the nutritional status and health of underprivileged children less than 6 yrs of age, provide nutrition support to severely malnourished HIV or TB infected adults and assist with creation of home vegetable gardens to improve the overall nutrition status of the community.

“My child was underweight, but now growing. I am happy.”
A Nyanga mother

“I need help for my children. She {Etafeni’s Community Worker} came to my door. I was so happy.”
Another Nyanga mother

“The garden is good. When I don’t have something to cook, I go to the garden.”
A home gardener

“I saw my neighbour’s garden and wanted to have one. So, I called Etafeni.”

“You are teaching us so much, now I can teach other mothers how important breastfeeding is for our children” A mother attending the breastfeeding support group

Initially designed in 2002, to provide nutrition education and life sustaining supplements to the Etafeni mothers and children, the programme has expanded significantly over the decade to include malnourished children ages 0-6 years throughout Nyanga and surrounding communities, as well as underweight adults found in the community who are suffering from HIV or TB.

Today the South African Department of Health provides funds for nutrition supplements of underweight children and adults as well as part of the dietitians’ salary that is responsible for managing the nutrition programme. Over and above that, Etafeni independently raises funds for home vegetable gardens, food parcels, medicines, support groups and salaries for crucial staff members who do the groundwork in the community that make our department a success.

A nutrition advisor and casual community care worker spend part of each week going door to door seeking poorly nourished children and parents. When candidates are found, they are invited to come to the Etafeni Nutrition Centre at prescribed weekly clinic hours to receive free monthly supplements, some basic medicines, food supplies and nutrition counseling. Mothers with infants who are not breastfeeding come every two weeks and receive nutritional powdered milk. Older children receive a nutritional shake as well as a fortified porridge. The children are weighed every visit and kept in the programme until they meet developmental norms for weight. During the visits nutrition education is given to all of the caregivers/clients by the dietitian and nutrition advisor. Nutrition advice is reinforced at each visit after initial counseling.

Nutrition education focuses mainly on appropriate infant and child feeding practices, introduction of solids, promotion of breastfeeding practices, growth monitoring, hygiene practices, and healthy eating for HIV/AIDS and TB.

Home visits are made to families who are too incapacitated to attend the clinic sessions. Referrals are made to specific health care facilities for additional medical needs and to the social worker for further counseling and support when necessary.

Since 2012 the nutrition department has been running support groups for breastfeeding mothers. Each group attends 6 workshops that focuses on promoting breastfeeding practices as well as information related to early childhood development and healthy eating guidelines.

The breastfeeding support groups are so beneficial to the mothers that attend, not only for breastfeeding advice and support, but for pscycosocial support. It creates a platform where mothers can share their challenges and receive counseling and support from other mothers facing the same challenges.

Below: a group of mothers attending their last breastfeeding support group session

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In June 2013 the nutrition department was given 1000 wonderbags by the city of Cape Town to distribute within Nyanga and surrounding communities. Community members and caregivers attending support groups at Etafeni are invited to attend a workshop that lasts approximately 2-3 hours where training is done on how to use the wonderbag, including a demonstration. By October 2013 we had already distributed all the wonderbags. The city of cape town were so impressed with our efforts and the way we efficiently ran the workshops that they asked us to take on another 1000 wonderbags. From June – December 2013 we managed to do 21 wonderbag workshops and have handed out 1531 wonderbags in total. In 2014 the wonderbag workshops continue and is only one way in which the nutrition department is contributing towards household food insecurity by alleviating cost of electricity needed to cook food.

Below: Community memebers receiving their wonderbags

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The nutrition department established a home vegetable garden project that has been running successfully since 2011. Etafeni staff assesses properties for good growing conditions. If found appropriate, the soil is fully prepared and the plot fenced in, assisted by the resident. The new gardeners are educated on appropriated gardening practices: when to plant seeds/seedlings, when to harvest, how often to water the garden, crop rotation, keeping the soil healthy, getting rid of pests in an environmentally friendly way, etc. Various funders annually supply funds for infrastructure, gardening tools, compost and a variety of vegetable seedlings for each family garden, assuring the gardens endure. Etafeni staff members regularly visit each garden to provide ongoing guidance and support. Twenty-three gardens were created in 2011, 17 in 2012 and 20 in 2013. Word has gotten out! Local residents are now contacting Etafeni for assistance in starting home gardens and a waiting list is growing! The “greening of Nyanga” has begun with the advent of sustainable, healthy living practices.

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