AAA to quality food (Access, availability and awareness of quality food)
Our team members belong to University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. Three students Maria Amjad, Sara Farooq, Zareen Fatima members are students of Ph.D. in Rural Sociology and Seher Un Nisa is the student of M. Phil and one member Nasir Sohail is from AIOU and doing his MSc in Sociology.
Food is one of the basic necessities of life. Everyone needs food to live on the Earth, but unfortunately, in developing countries like Pakistan, all people of society have not equal access to food. Availability of quality food is also not based on equality, and above all, people have less awareness about how to save food and how to make access and availability sure. Every person in society struggles for food, earn to have food, get an education to have food; so food is a very vital element of human life.
Observing the intricacy of earning meals with an assurance of quality, our team has taken a challenge to work on access, availability, and awareness of quality food. Let me make it clear here that, our main concern is the poor community or people who have less access to quality food. Quality food does mean here richly nutritious food or balanced food and above all achieved in a respectful way. We want to establish a platform from where the poor people or people from backward areas can have quality food for their routine life. We want to establish some stores in backward areas to make sure the access and availability of quality food to the poor people. We also want to conduct awareness seminars about food, its nutritious value and honorable way to obtain it.
Household food security through nutrition education & sustainable home gardening.
It is universally accepted that man’s basic needs are food, clothing, and shelter. Among them, food is the most important need of the man. It is necessary for his survival, growth, physical ability, and good health. The availability of an abundant supply of food does not necessarily guarantee survival unless the food is nutritionally complete and contains no deleterious substances.
Unfortunately, serious and sometimes fatal illness results from diets that lack sufficient proteins, vitamins or nutritional components. The optimum physical and mental functioning of the body is dependent on the nutritional quality of the food it receives.
One main cause of food insecurity is the widespread poverty in Pakistan and the burden of poverty fall disproportionately high on women and children. The incidence of poverty is directly related to low productivity caused by environmental degradation and the population pressure. The unbalanced situation between population and food production has influenced the energy requirements. The per capita food requirements are about 3000 calories, which at present is not being attained by the poor people in the diocese.
A staggering number of people lack an adequate amount of foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals required for optimal health and a productive life. Usually, the people who are most vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies are children under five, pregnant and lactating mothers. It is also usually the poor and socially deprived who are most affected by micronutrient deficiencies since malnutrition knows no geographic, political or economic boundary.
Malnutrition is a complex and widely prevalent problem contributing significantly to high rates of morbidity and mortality in infants, young children, and their mothers. Many people do not get enough food they need to lead a healthy and active life. Most live in rural areas that depend on local agriculture as the main source of food, employment, and income.
Among poor people, wherever they are, women, children, elderly and sick are vulnerable to malnutrition. The existing micronutrient deficiencies in vitamin A, C, D, and iodine are also creating several nutritional disorders in infants, lactating and pregnant women here in our working areas.
Marasmus, tooth decay, and gum diseases, Kwashiorkor, rickets, and beriberi are some of the commonly occurring diseases in children due to a shortage of food and lack of appropriate nutrients.
Poor diet intake, especially inadequate intake of vitamin A rich foods contribute to Vitamin A deficiency that further leads to many more nutritional disorders. Vitamin A deficiency is also the leading cause of blindness in children. It begins as a silent, unseen threat, which, if untreated, can eventually rob children of their eyesight and their lives.
Since Vitamin A strengthens the body’s immune response and thus helps the body to resist disease and infection, children who are vitamin A deficient have a higher incidence of severe diarrhea and respiratory infections which increase their chances of death.
For adults, visual impairment caused by vitamin A deficiency is an important source of lost productivity, which impacts upon family, community and national development. Yet the real tragedy is that vitamin A deficiency is one of the most preventable forms of malnutrition, because vitamin A rich foods either from plant or animal sources are widely available, or can be produced economically.
A variety of factors such as pollution, high use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and lack of education, etc. have lowered the crop yields in the rural areas thus resulting in nutritional disorders owing to food shortages.
Therefore, it is recommended that people should grow vegetables as much as possible in their houses to improve their health and nutrition and avail the following benefits of home gardening
Raise in income.
Availability of fresh vegetables.
Beautification of home and productive involvement of a family.
The women and the children will be strongly encouraged to participate in this activity as it will be inside the house and is a matter of nourishment and health of the family.
Another problem responsible for the nutritional disorder and food insecurity being their ignorance towards postharvest physiology of the agricultural produce. The farming communities are unaware of the losses between food production and retailing. The food losses during storage are also very considerable i.e. 10-15 % of the cereal grains, of the rural farmers is lost or destroyed during harvesting and traditional storage practices.
Increased production and consumption of fresh home produced vegetables/foods is the only truly sustainable solution for the poor to the problem of food insecurity.
Hence realizing all the above factors, a need to design such a project originated to teach, train and involve both urban and rural people, especially the women to enable them to produce fresh green leafy vegetables for their home consumption, take care of family’s nutrition and minimize the food losses occurring during cooking, harvesting, marketing and storage for assuring household food security.
The project addresses the need of the people suffering from undernourishment, malnutrition, and diseases caused by several nutritional disorders.
Reasons behind this need:
Widespread poverty, hunger, and malnutrition is a threat to economic and social conditions of the poor communities. Immediate measures must be taken to reverse the current trends which contribute to food insecurity. It needs a substantial amount of effort to improve the nutritional well-being of the people.
In addition to undernutrition, vitamin A deficiency; a major cause of childhood mortality and the leading cause of childhood blindness; is a major public health problem.
Vegetables contribute greatly to making our food a balanced diet. Because vegetables are rich sources of vitamins, carbohydrates, minerals, and proteins and thus are called “Protective Food”. Fresh vegetables make our food a balanced diet and keep us healthy. According to a research per day per person consumption of vegetables should be 10 Oz. But presently it is about 2 Oz. Per person per day.
Poor people, whatever is their profession, and especially women who are traditionally In charge of the kitchen, home and nourishment of their children have either no or little access to awareness and education programs.
It is a tragic fact that in an age of advanced technology and scientific knowledge, there are still many people in the diocese whose health and quality of life suffer through lack of food, environmental pollution, lack of awareness and other social or economic factors.
Description of socio-economic conditions of target areas
In the rural areas, the people are small farmers, brick makers or daily wage laborers and mainly depend on the crops they grow, daily earning and animals they rear. Crops and animals are considered to be their only source of food, clothing, and shelter. Their monthly income is in between Rs.5000 - Rs.8000. One cannot imagine what happens to a family, losing their only source of income which they have been raising for months.
Whereas in the urban areas, the poor people are mostly sanitary workers, donkey cart owners, employees and daily wage laborers etc. and earn Rs.6000-9000 per month.
Problems which the project intends to solve
Unawareness about proper nutrition and post-harvest losses.
Poor diet intake.
Unavailability of fresh and sufficient food at all the times.
Poor health standards.
Increase the availability and consumption of vegetables and vitamin A rich foods.
Building awareness of nutrition education.
Minimize hunger and malnutrition.
Ensure provision of hygienically & environmentally sound edibles to the communities.
Encourage natural agriculture and local level seed production.
Improve utilization of existing resources.
Production of vegetables around the year.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROJECT:
Following is a proposed methodology for achieving the defined objectives:-
Implementation of “Pilot phase basis”:
Initially, the project will be implemented on a pilot phase in six areas inclusive of four rural and two urban areas.
Publication of literature:
Brochures, pamphlets, posters, and booklets will be developed and printed in the National language (Urdu) for awareness and education of the poor households. The written material with pictorial sketches will mainly focus on the alleviation of hunger and malnutrition.
Selection of Beneficiaries:
The existing LDC’s (Local Development Committees) or groups will select the beneficiaries. 31 poorest households per area will be selected. Thus a total of 186 households will directly benefit from this project. The beneficiaries of this project will be families that are either small farmers, brick makers or daily wage laborers etc.
Breakdown of beneficiaries:
• 30 households per area will be the home gardeners
• One household will be the owner of a block nursery for seeds, seedlings, and saplings.
Nutrition Education Programs (NEP):
Six Nutrition education programs of two days each will be conducted in the six areas i.e. one program in each area. At least 1-2 persons from each beneficiary family will participate in these programs. Average No. of participants per program will be 40.
Following will be the contents of the Nutrition Education Programs:
Diet & health (balanced diet)
Nutrition for children, infant, adults, and teenagers.
Sustainable practices for increasing food production.
Importance of home gardens for family nutrition.
Food preservation and storage.
6 follow up programs of one day each will also be conducted with similar participants by the animators and Local Development Management Committees themselves in their respective areas.
Home gardening training to Households:
Six training programs of two days each will be conducted in six areas i.e. one program per area. 1-2 members from each beneficiary family will participate in these training programs and average No. of participants per program will be 40. The training will cover methods of vegetable growing and other useful plants and trees for both rural and urban families.
Establishment of Block Nursery / Central Village Nursery (CVN):
In each area block, nursery or central village nursery will be established where seeds, seedlings, and saplings will be produced. These nurseries will be owned by one local household out of 31 beneficiary families and run as micro-enterprise. These seeds, saplings, and seedlings will be distributed to 30 families. Each Central Village Nursery will support 30 home gardeners. The seed for each Central Village Nursery will be provided by us.
The main reason behind CVN (Central Village Nursery) is that instead of providing seeds to the beneficiaries individually, they will get what they want to grow from the nursery. It will be more convenient to provide seeds to 6 families for establishing nurseries rather than to 186 families. Moreover, it will be also easier for the households to buy the seed from their village/area throughout the year. It will cut down the cost as well as promote domestic seed production.
Both rural and urban households will grow as home gardens for vegetable production, according to the family size, choice, and requirements. They will get the seed or seedlings from the Central Village Nursery located in their concerned areas and remain involved in “throughout the year”.
These household gardeners will act as a source of practical example and motivation for other families of the target village/area. Both women and children will also equally participate and benefit from this activity by being involved in land preparation, sowing, irrigating, harvesting and selling vegetables.
The people will sow the vegetables in the available place (150-250 Sq.ft.) inside or adjacent to their houses. In that much area, 7-8 different types of vegetables can be grown sufficiently according to their taste and requirement. For households living in urban areas, there is another option of growing vegetables in flower pots, wooden crates, and plastic cans etc.
At the time of harvesting of vegetables, the households will also sell vegetables for generating some income. Since most of the vegetables are harvested with an interval of 5-7 days, therefore the process of regular harvesting, selling and consuming fresh vegetables will keep on going.
The people will generate income by growing vegetables at the household level, recover from nutritional disorders and maintain their health as well by consuming fresh vegetables.
There will be productive involvement of a family in household gardening.
The project will encourage local level seed production and improved utilization of existing resources as a sustainable strategy for alleviating malnutrition.
Through Nutrition Education Programs and Home gardening training, the communities will be able to pick up knowledge and skills to minimize nutritional disorders due to insufficient or stale food.