Diversified farming for better soils (WP1)
This work package will evaluate effects of conservation agriculture (CA)-based cropping systems, crop diversification and low-cost concepts for expanding kitchen garden area on soil fertility and nutrient uptake and provision by crops. Best practices to sustain and increase yields under smallholder farm conditions will be identified to formulate farmer-led agricultural interventions for fields and kitchen gardens.
Potential topics include introducing state-of-the-art CA concepts adapted to local needs, identifying suitable catch crops for soil improvement (e.g. pigeon peas, lablab and Jack beans), optimizing farm nutrient balances (e.g. rotations, improved fallows, application of organic inputs), and exploring opportunities to expanding area of kitchen gardens. Crops to be tested are short-duration pulses (e.g. lentils), drought adapted nutrient-rich cereals (e.g. tef), and vegetables. In close cooperation with local authorities, demonstration sites will be established near/on school properties to test viable options.
Farm households randomly selected from the project region will be encouraged testing the abovementioned options on-farm according to household preferences and ecological zones. Soil and plant samples will be collected and analyzed using a X-ray fluorescence spectrometer for rapid and spatially-explicit assessment of crop-soil nutrient relationships to unravel the role of crop diversification and management on the transfer of nutritionally-important nutrients from soils to crops and their impact on soil fertility and yields. Farm families’ feedback suggestions, ther innovation ideas and agronomic performance of these options will help identify best practices and choices for sustainable resource use and production of nutrient-dense crops.
Value chains and enabling environments for diversified food systems (WP2)
This work package will perform action research at household, rural food systems and value chain levels to identify conditions and incentives for farmers, farmer organisations and SMEs in value chains to engage in sustainable and diversified nutrient-dense crop production, processing, trading and marketing.
Socio-economic considerations will be central, including gender roles and relations, access to and control over resources, and markets. WP2 builds on insights from the HealthyLAND project on linkages between sustainable production, value addition and household nutrition decisions. Appropriate postharvest practices and value chain activities will be identified, tested, adapted and promoted in collaboration with farmers, value chain actors and extension services through multi-stakeholder innovation platforms.
The research focuses on contextual conditions and behavioural incentives for smallholder farmers to engage in diversified production of nutrient-dense crops as well as identifying concrete actions for overcoming barriers that limit such production, including lack of access to good quality seed, other inputs, extension and further services. The conditions for farmers to integrate in local value chains will be examined. Following up on market access and stability, income opportunities, and upgrading trajectories for smallholder farmers.
A focus is on improved value chain services/practices for increased efficiency and effectiveness through improved handling, storage and processing practices that minimize the reduction of nutrient content of food being traded along these chains. Additionally, the contribution of nutrient-dense agri-food value chains to improved nutrition outcomes of consumers within rural food systems will be analysed. This refers to efficient value chains through enhanced coordination to ensure availability and accessibility of diversified nutrient-dense foods. Gained information will be used to adapt education materials and in the policy dialogue.
Food culture and nutrition (WP3)
This work package will focus on an assessment of gender dynamics in agrifood value chains using Trials of Improved Practices (TIPs) in a sub-sample of the study population (30-50 farm households in Kenya and Uganda). TIPs, a formative research approach, includes a cross-sectional assessment of current feeding, eating and food preparation practices and their impact on nutritional status. The results are triangulated with findings of focus group discussions (FGD) and individual counselling aiming at identifying options for behavior change and cultural acceptable communication strategies.
The WP will emphasize farmer’s knowledge, attitudes and perceptions on legumes, vegetables and fruits in terms of taste, health benefits, and preparation options as well as conservation strategies, assessed and tested in participatory cooking demonstrations. The process will be conducted twice, in lean and harvest season, to capture differences in food availability and time constraints. Special attention will be given to the prevailing food culture in the project region.
TIPs will include a special component on food preparation technologies to assess the possibilities to improve food preparation especially of legumes introduced in WP1 resulting in reduced consumption of firewood and time (using different improved stoves). In particular the latter is required to implement the identified agricultural innovations in WP1 and 2. The findings will be documented and used to improve and further develop nutrition education materials developed by HealthyLAND and other projects in WP4. Peers from the TIPs study population will test and evaluate the materials among interested households which did not participate in the TIPs.
Communication, education materials and policy dialogue (WP4)
This work package will build on the findings of WP1-3 in the co-creation process of the development of learning strategies and materials to strengthen the capacity in applying sustainable production practices and diets of households in Kenya and Uganda. Co-creation sessions with stakeholders and with representatives of the target audiences (schools, youth farming clubs and rural communities) will inform the development of communication and education tools that create awareness on the benefits of diversification in farming and nutrition as first steps towards behavior change with regard to diversified food and nutrition systems.
Targeting specifically rural youth and women with this initiative, the learning and communication materials will be geared towards strengthening their roles in diversified food systems (e.g. intra-household dynamics). Approaches and materials will be co-designed through a participatory process to respond to local needs and demands. The impact of learning activities on the target population will be monitored through assessments, expert interviews, surveys and Focus Group Discussions (FGD) within WP1-3.
Through the innovative learning strategies and materials, households will be in a position to make better informed choices due to the knowledge and skills disseminated in the training materials, as well as a change of attitude through communication strategies that discuss perception and norms. In a policy dialogue with relevant national and local government representatives, findings from WP1-3 will be transferred and disseminated to support specific and applicable measures for policy makers that create an enabling environment for diversifying farming practices and diets for all value chain actors in the food system.
Structural barriers for rural entrepreneurs, potential pathways to overcome these barriers and potentials for public-private partnerships that lead to a more diversified food system in Kenya and Uganda will be identified with policy makers from the target area, supported by mass media tools.