SAIP’s nutrition intervention brings new hope, energy to vulnerable household families

In December 2018, The Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and Food Security Project (SAIP) that operates under the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board launched a nutrition intervention campaign. The campaign was in accordance with one of SAIP’s key objectives, which is to improve nutritional outcomes at household level, and this is done through the distribution of sources of nutrient-rich foods and promotion of nutrition-sensitive value chains among vulnerable households in the project sites. 

Targeted vulnerable households within the SAIP intervention sites across the country received chicken-layers, mushroom tubes, fruits, vegetable seeds and orange fleshed sweet potato cuttings from the project to improve household nutrition and healthy eating habits. The initiative had positive effects among disadvantaged households with expectant moms, nursing mothers, and children under the age of five years old over the years since its beginning.

“I am no longer embarrassed about my child’s weight. He has gained weight and is able to play and eat just like any other child because I feed her eggs and a diet of vegetables and mushrooms,” said Grace Uwase, a resident of Ryamwana village, Mwiyanike cell, Muringa sector in Nyabihu district.

She added that SAIP gave them mushroom spores and supported them to construct houses for mushrooms as well as training them to grow and maintain the mushrooms.

“We have been trained on how to prepare delicious nutritious meals containing mushrooms. We also get extra income from selling mushrooms and eggs, which helps us to improve our household income,” Uwase explained.

According to Esperance Ubonakize, a community health worker in the SAIP intervention site in Mukura sector, Rutsiro district, household communities in Mukura sector have responded positively to the SAIP nutrition intervention.

“They have shown keen interest in embracing healthy eating habits. Children who were in yellow are now green because they have been fed eggs and mushrooms. Households have also participated in behavioral change campaigns at village level and the lessons learnt are implemented in their homes,” added Ubonakize.

They have ensured hand washing with soap, improved sanitation, access to safe drinking water and early child-care and development. Mothers have also learnt the importance of early and safe breastfeeding as well as breast-feeding hygiene, according to Ubonakize.

Household families that struggled to add animal sources of protein nutrients to their diet, are now able to regularly feed on eggs, which has significantly improved the nutritional status of pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under the age of five. SAIP supports farmers to construct kitchen gardens to increase the availability of vegetables for home consumption, which has enabled household families to consume nutritious vegetables on a regular basis.

The nutritional status of children has significantly improved, whereby those who were underweight have now added on more weight as a result of increasing access to a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as animal sources of protein.

The project involved community health workers supporting the implementation of nutrition intervention at village level. Beneficiary households say that they are now able to measure children for malnutrition using Mid-Upper Arm Circumference measuring tapes and this has enabled them to assess the nutritional status of their children. Parents and community health workers wrap the measuring tapes around the child's arm and use the color code to define the child's degree of malnutrition. Red indicates malnutrition, green shows that the child is healthy, and yellow warns of moderate acute malnutrition.

SAIP targets improving nutritional outcomes at the household level in the project areas by increasing access to healthy and diversified foods and by promoting good practices for improving nutrition. SAIP is implemented under the Single Project Implementation Unit of the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB).