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Eat more vegetables for a healthier life

Healthy Eating
 Eat more vegetables for a healthier life (Photo: iStock)

“You are not leaving the table until you finish the vegetables,” This is a common phrase in most Kenyan households during mealtime. There is a unanimous dislike of vegetables by children in most households which makes vegetables look like the ultimate villain despite their nutritional value.

“Apart from medication, you need to eat more vegetables.” This is another common phrase in most health facilities

Enhancing the demand for vegetables and encouraging their consumption can lead to improved nutrient intakes, and thus improved dietary quality, and contribute ultimately to addressing micronutrient deficienciesOver the last 15 years, vegetable consumption in Kenya has remained stagnant at 100-130g/per person/day, well below the recommended 400g of fruits and vegetables by the World Health Organisation WHO, despite a 46% increase in GDP

Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) launched the Vegetables for All project that aims to improve dietary diversity for 1.1 million urban and peri-urban Bottom of the Pyramid consumers by increasing consumption of vegetables.

The five-year project is funded by the Dutch Government and is being implemented in the counties of Nairobi, Kiambu, Machakos, Nakuru and Mombasa. The Vegetables for All project targets families with children aged 3-12 in the lower income group.

According to The Ministry Of Agriculture And Livestock Development, Kenya is facing the triple burden of malnutrition, encompassing undernutrition (stunting, wasting & underweight), micronutrient deficiencies, and obesity with associated diet-related non-communicable diseases.

A report by the Kenya Demographic Health Survey report (KDHS 2022) estimates that 18 per cent of hildren between 6–59 months are still stunted, 5 per cent are wasted, 10 per cent are underweight and 3 per cent are overweight, way above the World Health Assembly targets.

The Ministry Of Agriculture And Livestock Development is committed to systematic and evidence-based interventions aimed at increasing the consumption of vegetables for healthier diets in Kenya.

The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health in collaboration with academia and other stakeholders with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have developed the Kenya Food Composition Table (KFCT) 2018. The KFCT provides information used to establish food-based dietary guidelines for dietary diversification and to facilitate interventions meant to meet the nutrient requirement in the population through diet.

According to GAIN’s Country Director Ruth Okowa, apart from health benefits, increased consumption of vegetables can also contribute to the economic development of Kenya.

“Agriculture is a significant sector in our country, and vegetables offer a valuable avenue for farmers to diversify their crops and generate income. By promoting the consumption of vegetables, we can empower our local farmers and enhance food and nutrition security in the process,” she said

Vegetables play a vital role in preserving our environment. By consuming more vegetables and reducing reliance on animal-based products, we can contribute to mitigating climate change and conserving precious natural resources. GAIN has developed an Environmental Screening Tool to better assess the impact, GAIN programmes can have on the environment through self-assessment.

The project “The Vegetables for All”  identified potential environmental risks and opportunities of the project measured according to ten environment impact levers which have already been incorporated into project design. They include environmental compliance, biodiversity and water, soil, waste and suppliers.

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