By Jorge Rojas and Erica Oakley, Humanitas Global
"Farmers are some of the most undernourished people in the world" stated Bonnie McClafferty, GAIN's Director of Agriculture and Nutrition, during a brown-bag event last week at the World Bank. The insightful presentation by Bonnie along with Christine Hotz, Consultant at Nutridemics and Gretel Pelto, Graduate Professor at Cornell University highlighted key findings from the study on infant and young child feeding (IYCF) in two rural Kenyan communities - Vihiga, in Western Kenya and Kitui, in Eastern Kenya.study's purpose was to "determine the sourcing of foods for infants and young children, address the nutritional adequacy of those foods and assess care-giver's behaviors and knowledge, with the goal of identifying opportunities and barriers to improving nutrition."
The presentation of the results, titled “Improving Complementary Feeding in Rural Kenya: Barriers and Opportunities,” highlighted the findings of an evidence-based study funded by GAIN and USAID (Feed the Future) which employs Focused Ethnographic Studies of infant and young child feeding (FES). The study also utilized OptiFood, a linear programming software developed by the World Health Organization in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (FANTA) project, and Blue Infinity, to determine appropriate interventions to improve complementary feeding and available local foods for infants.
A valuable aspect of the Kenya study was the identification of micronutrient deficiencies for young children as well as the identification of barriers and challenges that cause such micronutrient deficiencies. As Christine stated, “it would be devastating for mothers if we tell them you need to feed your child more nutritious food. That is a known fact, we must identify the barriers limiting their access to nutritious foods such as millet.”
Some of the key findings of the study:
- Most IYC core foods are purchased, rather than grown, causing a heavy reliance on income to purchase foods.
- Mothers are cooking specialized foods for infants
- Lack of access to water and more importantly, clean water
- Low millet crop yields
- Food preparation/inappropriate safe food storage. Reliance of firewood and time demands reduce the frequency of cooking, therefore foods are generally prepared in the morning leading to unsanitary and unsafe food storage.
- Low animal milk production
- Women without male partners and/or those that are ill or seriously disadvantaged increases hardship in providing foods for IYC
Based on findings from the FES study, the highest suggested priorities were to improve:
- Clean water
- Millet crop yields
- Food storage safety
- Local animal milk production
- More affordable foods