School gardens

It seems pretty obvious that school food gardens should be quite useful teaching tools. Kids like nothing better than getting down and dirty. Well, anyway, now there’s proof. A paper in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, whose abstract you can read here, confirms “the efficacy of using garden-based nutrition education to increase adolescents’ consumption of fruits and vegetables.” What an opportunity for also teaching about agricultural biodiversity, highlighting its link to nutrition! Of course, in some parts of the world school gardens actually provide a significant proportion of the students’ diet…

Child malnutrition in Uganda

Some clues in a newspaper article that is unfortunately not online led me to a East African Journal of Medicine paper on levels of malnutrition in a Ugandan village. The researchers found that “young children in Kabarole district suffer from severe chronic malnutrition rates, but rates and feeding patterns are not different in AIDS affected versus non AIDS affected homes.” This last finding may be because children also benefit from the attempts of care-givers to improve the nutrition of AIDS sufferers in the family. Here’s a key recommendation:

Poverty plays a key role in this situation, but there are cost-effective interventions locally available to reduce chronic malnutrition in children. It may require shifting food production to more nutritious foods and foods that are new for this area such as orange fleshed sweet potatoes with higher energy density and protein rich beans.

Sounds like a place where CIP’s VITAA Project could do some good.

Good ethnobotanists have healthier children

A study of the Tsimane, an indigenous group of foragers and farmers inhabiting a remote area of the Amazon lowlands of Bolivia, has determined that mothers who are more knowledgeable about plants and their uses tend to have healthier children. According to this summary of the results, Dr Victoria Reyes-García, one of the co-authors of the study, pointed out that “globalization threatens this knowledge to the extent that formal schooling and jobs in emerging markets devalue folk knowledge and provide access to products not made from local resources, but without providing adequate medical treatment substitutes.” I’ll have to find the original paper, because what the summary doesn’t say, and which it would be great to know, is whether better ethnobotanical knowledge translated into more diverse family gardens and more diverse diets.

Traditional vegetables update

We finally managed to get up to grandma’s farm at the weekend, so I was able to checkup on my vegetables “experiment”. The photo shows (from the left), two varieties of Amaranthus the seeds of which I got from a market, a variety of Solanum, and a population of Amaranthus derived from seeds we collected from weedy plants on the farm. The Solanum is not doing so well so we weeded it thoroughly and made sure it was taken care a bit more, in particular through watering. The local Amaranthus population is lagging behind the market seed, but doing ok. One of the market varieties (white seeded) is doing better than the other (black seed). We’ve got one harvest off these last two already. Let’s see how long they last.