Kenya, Uganda and Malawi

„Dietary diversity and nutritional status of small holder women farmers. A comparison between three East-African countries.“
HealthyLAND project‘s specific objective is to understand the challenges small scale farmers face to improve their diets to ensure dietary adequacy. This study aimed to assess the dietary diversity and nutritional status of women in three specific regions of Kenya, Malawi and Uganda. In each country trained enumerators conducted semi-structured interviews targeting > 1200 farm households with children under five years. Minimum Dietary Diversity Score for Women were calculated (MDD-W; 0-10 food groups) based on 24h dietary recalls. Women anthropometric measurements were assessed to calculate body mass index (BMI).

Some selected results:

  • The women were of similar age across countries (mean 30 years).
  • Mean BMI was also similar (Kenya: 23 kg/m² ± 4; Malawi: 23 kg/m²± 3; Uganda: 23 kg/m² ± 4).
  • Mean women’s dietary diversity score was 4.2 ± 1.2 (Kenya), 3.9 ± 1.4 (Malawi), 4.3 ± 1.2 (Uganda).
  • Most consumed food group was in all three countries “Grains, white tubers and plantain” (Kenya: 100%; Malawi: 93%; Uganda: 100%).
  • The least consumed food group in Kenya was “Nuts and Seeds” (6 %) and in Malawi and Uganda “Eggs” (5 % and <1%, respectively).
  • Vitamin A rich fruits and vegetables were consumed by only 11% in Kenya, 34% in Malawi and 9% in Uganda.
  • The proportion of the women achieving MDD-W ranged from 44% in Uganda and 40% Kenya to 33.0% Malawi.
  • The findings confirm a poorly diversified diet in all three regions. Mean BMI signals no malnutrition among the women. However, the low MDD-W rates indicate a high risk for micronutrient deficiencies. Interventions are needed to improve consumption of non-staple foods of small-scale farm families.

    Kenya and Uganda

    „Informal seed systems and their importance for food and nutrition security in East Africa.“
    This study aimed to identify seed system actors and to document the seed transaction networks in Teso South (Kenya) and Kapchorwa (Uganda). Moreover, the potential impact of the informal seed system on the diet of small-scale farmers in the two research areas was to be assessed.

    Some selected results:

    • The seed networks generally had a low density and were rather homogeneous, implying that there was no actor who had much more influence and power than others
    • Social relations and in Teso South also markets were the most important seed sources for the surveyed persons
    • In villages that were further away from the trading centres (Busia or Kapchorwa) less informally sourced seed was transferred among the actors
    • For the formally sourced seed no difference could be detected in the villages in Teso South
    • This was different in Kapchorwa where the villages that were located at lower altitudes had accessed less formal seed compared to the two villages in Kapchorwa town or above
    • The number of crop species in the food groups (FGs) was rather low in both research areas
    • Most persons in both research areas had access to three or more plant-based FGs
    • In the majority of cases the number of FGs a person can potentially produce from the accessed seed did not increase when adding the FG(s) from formally sourced seed
    • The bulk of seeds were sourced from the informal seed system underlining it’s importance for and the contributions to the food and nutrition security of the surveyed persons. However, there is a lot of space for improvements to more nutritious diets and equitable access to seed for all.


      „Diet adequacy of male Ugandan farmers in Kapchorwa District of Uganda.“
      Since data on men’s diet adequacy are scarce, the objective of this study was to assess the diet composition, dietary diversity and energy balance as well as the nutritional status of male farmers in Kapchorwa District, Mid-Eastern Uganda. This study included 187 men at baseline study (t0) and 79 men at endline study (t1).

      Some selected results:

      • At baseline, the mean farmers‘ BMI was 21.2 (SD=3.26), with 15% classified as underweight, 75% of normal weight, 8.7% as overweight and 1.6% as obese
      • The mean energy intake was 2426 kcal/day (SD=853). The mean energy balance was negative, -583 kcal (SD=1093), with 71% farmers having a higher energy expenditure than energy intake
      • Energy intake was mainly covered through carbohydrates (67%), followed by fats (24%) and lowest by proteins (9%). Carbohydrate intake was too high, whereas 30% of men had an insufficient protein intake
      • The Individual Dietary Diversity Score (IDDS) (mean (SD)) did not differ significantly between the two seasons during pre-harvest season and during harvest season, (4.4 (1.2) and 4.5 (1.3), P=0.397)
      • Seasonal differences with regard to consumption of „other fruits“ such as banana or unripe mango were significant (33% vs. 20%, p<0,05)
      • In light of the results, it can be concluded that a poorly diversified diet that lacks adequate energy and nutrient supply subsequently limits the farmer’s capacity to intensify their farming activities that are needed to improve nutrition security.

        „Impact of a community-based nutrition education intervention on child dietary diversity in Kapchorwa District, Uganda.“
        Aim of this study was to assess the impact of a nutrition education intervention on child dietary diversity in Kapchorwa District, Uganda. After obtaining an agriculture and nutrition baseline survey in farm households with children < 5 years, randomly selected households were separated in intervention- and control group. Intervention group received 7 nutrition education sessions on complementary feeding and family nutrition (Feb – April 2017) followed by an Endline survey including both, intervention and control group.

        • Nutrition education impact on food consumption:
        • Children 6-23 months: increase > 1 food group
        • Children 24-59 months: increase > 0.5 food groups
        • Increase of consumption of animal source food, Vit A – rich fruits and vegetables
        • The nutrition eductaion intervention resulted in an increase in dietary diversity of children aged 6-23 months and 24-59 months. However, sustainable long-term nutrition education programs are needed.

          „The relevance of farmer’s soil knowledge at Mt. Elgon, Kapchorwa district, Uganda.“
          Uganda’s Kapchorwa district is reportedly one of the most productive areas in the country. Soil maps or recent information regarding soil degradation are not available. Combining local soil knowledge with scientific methods increases relevance and accuracy of results as well as acceptance in local communities. Additionally, a comparison between scientific methods and local knowledge can uncover best crop management scenarios and knowledge gaps. Different questions with regard to the validity of local soil knowledge for evaluating soil degradation were examined by means of Focus Group Discussions (FDGs), soil classification exercises and questionnaires.

          Some selected results:

          • Farmers used soil colour, texture, and crop yields to classify soils
          • The farmers in all groups showed a very high awareness of their soils and occurring degradation
          • They described decreasing soil fertility with decreasing altitude (confirmed by soil analysis: as there is a decreasing gradient of nutrient availability with decreasing altitude)
          • The comparison of the scientific analysis and the farmers‘ selected soil properties, however, showed that the properties are inadequate in identifying indicators of soil degradation
          • The costs and efforts of remediating a degraded soil outweigh mitigating the cause of degradation. Therefore, farmer tailored monitoring tools shall be constructed to identify early warning indicators of soil quality decrease, as well as the corresponding mitigation techniques.

            „The role of video recording in identifying challenges in food preparation and feeding in Uganda.“
            Trial of improved practices are considered as golden standard to develop cultural acceptable nutrition education programs. They are based on a personal dialogue between a customer and an extension agent. Information collected via video recording have found to be beneficial to identify nutrition education messages which cannot be captured by an interview or focus group discussion (FGD) alone. If video technology is not known it may intrude a situation which needs to be reflected in the analysis process.

            Some selected results:

            • The mothers had no objections that a video is taken
            • Although the video camera attracted and distracted family members at the beginning of the recording it could be observed that it was less recognized in the process
            • Recordings showed limitations for the preparation of diversified foods and child feeding practices
            • existing video material was considered helpful for the broader research team to discuss barriers and challenges in food processing and feeding practices which cannot be captured in an interview and FGD due to existing language barriers
            • It can be concluded that video recording should be included in the preparatory work for developing behaviour change messages as it has a high potential to provide information which cannot be captured in interviews or personal counselling.

              „Assessing the role of non-timber forest products for enhancing food security and livelihoods of smallholder farm households in the Mount Elgon Region, Kapchorwa, Uganda.“
              This study aimed to assess the contributions of non-timber forest products (NTFP) to food security and livelihoods of smallholder farm households in the Mount Elgon region, Kapchorwa district, Uganda. During data collection, a mixed-method approach was applied.

              Some selected results:

              • A majority of farming households within the research area did not collect NTFPs in the forest
              • Female household members were mainly responsible for the regular, mainly weekly, collection of firewood and vegetables, while men engaged in the less regular extraction of e.g. construction materials
              • Aspects of availability and accessibility majorly influenced households’ collection patterns, functioning as drivers as well as challenges for NTFP collection
              • Gathered forest products were primarily used for home consumption and were sold only in case of large quantities
              • NTFPs illustrated a stable source of direct and indirect food supply supplementing conventional diets in terms of quantities but also by providing a variety of nutrients
              • Preferences of taste, tradition, motivations to diversify diets, health factor of NTFP consumption, medicinal usage of specific forest plants were identified reasons for household’s consumption
              • Additionally, cost savings as well as income generation through NTFP sales illustrated the main economic benefits for households, leading to an enhancement of their livelihood situation
              • Collection patterns were linked to availability and accessibility of NTFPs as well as individual socio-economic characteristics of households. The findings suggest that NTFPs have a clear but limited potential to enhance household food security and livelihood.


                „Factors influencing the nutritional status of women of reproductive age in Teso South Sub-County, Kenya.“
                In spite of the agricultural potential in rural areas, food insecurity and poor quality diets remain a challenge. This study aimed to investigate the factors influencing nutritional status of women of reproductive age in a rural setting in Western Kenya. 418 farm households with women and their children aged 6-59 months were included.

                Some selected results:

                • The prevalence of moderate and severe food insecurity was 23.4% and 46.4%, respectively
                • Mean (SD) women’s dietary diversity score was 4.2 (1.24) out of 10 food groups
                • The most consumed food group was cereals (87.3%) followed by other vegetables (80.1%) and dark-green vegetables (65.0%) while the least consumed were nuts and seeds (4.8%)
                • The proportion of women who achieved MDD-W was 43.6%
                • The prevalence of underweight and overweight/ obese was 10% and 22.2% respectively.
                • Bivariate correlation analysis indicated that wealth index (r=0.79, p=0.117), kitchen gardening (r=-0.027, p=0.600), food insecurity (r= -0.063, p=0.218) and dietary diversity (r= -0.022, p=0.685) had no significant correlation with BMI of the women
                • These results indicate that wealth index, kitchen gardening, food insecurity and dietary diversity do not have a significant influence on the nutrition status of women in Teso. This implies there may be other significant factors that need to be explored during further studies.

                  „Link of production diversity to agrobiodiversity and dietary diversity environment.“
                  Empirical evidence of the assumption that agrobiodiversity and diversified production on smallholder farms influences household dietary diversity is limited. Conventional biodiversity indicators neither include information on the quantity and quality, nor other factors affecting production. Objective of the study is to develop an indicator, i.e. production diversity (PD), measuring the role of diversity in crop production for human nutrition. Data was collected in 2016 from 72 households during long rainy season (LRS) and 2016/17 short rainy season (SRS).

                  Some selected results:

                  • PD and species richness (SR) were higher in the LRS (mean PD = 0.55, SD = 0.2; mean SR= 10, SD = 4.4), than in the SRS (mean PD= 0.38, SD = 0.25; mean SR= 8, SD = 3.3)
                  • In the LRS, PD and Individual Dietary Diversity Score (IDDS) showed a significant positive correlation (R2= 0.19; p= 0.002), but not in the SRS (R2=0.09; p= 0.052)
                  • In contrast, no significant results or trends were found using SR or SD (Simpson Diversity)
                  • Therefore, when total food production is high (LRS), household consumption of self-produced foods is also high, whereas when production is low (SRS), the use of self-produced food decreases
                  • Only at times of high productivity does agrobiodiversity affect IDD
                  • The results show, that production diversity is more capable of revealing the role of agrobiodiversity for dietary diversity, by including factors affecting crop productivity, than conventional biodiversity indicators.

                    „Agricultural intervention with focus on kitchen gardens to tackle soil erosion and to promote dietary diversity in Teso, Kenya.“
                    The project aim was to provide evidence of a positive relationship between agricultural diversity and dietary diversity. Two types of interventions were developed. Firstly, nutrition education with a focus on providing better knowledge on dietary diversity on the household level among smallholder farmers. Secondly, an agricultural intervention (targeting same households) to train the farmers in appropriate kitchen garden practices, to promote dietary diversity. The aim was to introduce vegetables into the range of crops for subsistence and commercial purposes, and legumes for soil fertility improvement in form of buffer strips.

                    Some selected results:

                    • Farmers who participated in the agricultural intervention, stated that they value kitchen gardens as a source of food and income
                    • Various challenges related to kitchen gardens, with a special emphasis on soil fertility were found
                    • Farmers who are informed about the buffer strips are also more likely to adopt the technology
                    • Although some of the farmers have been informed on how to use buffer strips, the way they actually implemented the practice was not optimal. Focus group discussions with farmers revealed that they still were not sure how to use it
                    • Not only could the importance of the proposed agricultural innovation based on buffer strips (with the use of species suitable for live hedge) could be confirmed, but also that implementing practice and installation of the technology was not optimal. It can therefore be concluded that a functioning system of information dissemination at the village and farm level is needed. Disseminated information should be simple while using a more participatory approach to enhance farmer’s involvement.

                      „Farmer’s willingness to implement cropping systems in Teso South, Kenya.“
                      Agroforestry, particularly alley cropping and buffer practices, can be considered as a key to sustainable farming systems. This practice of cultivating food crops between nitrogen fixating hedgerow species is linked to a variety of environmental services, e.g. enhanced soil fertility. The present thesis aimed to identify the major reasons influencing the willingness to implement alley cropping systems in the district of Teso South, Kenya. A mixed method approach (sequential design) was applied.

                      Some selected results:

                      • The main drivers of alley cropping were protection from animals, food production and improvement of soil fertility
                      • Providing shade, attraction to animals, decreased soil fertility and missing knowledge were stated as the main barriers
                      • Findings of both applied approaches indicated, that participants had a lack of know-how in terms of cultivation techniques as well as economic and ecological benefits
                      • The amount of households providing agricultural land for buffer strips (uncovered and covered) was 40% when they had heard about buffer strips before
                      • Seven plant species were identified to be cultivated as buffer strips, including Phaseolus vulgaris, Tithonia diversifolia and Glycine max
                      • The surveyed households offered a variety of factors affecting their willingness to implement alley cropping systems, whereby the protection of crops was predominant. Young, female farmers and previously informed farmers showed significant higher amounts of buffer strips than others. Educational measures, addressing young farmers and conducted by experts, should be targeted by the policy makers to enhance the willingness to implement.


                        The field phase in Malawi has been successfully completed. Data analysis is recently carried out and processed. Please see first results on dietary diversity and nutritional status of smallholder women farmers within the section “Kenya, Uganda and Malawi“. Results of the further undertaken research activities will be published as soon as possible.