Technical support for home gardens improves family nutrition

Technical support for home gardens improves family nutrition

This blog was authored by Dr. Enock Nzembela, a knowledge management and communications specialist with MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience in the DRC.


The global food security crisis has worsened for millions as a result of COVID-19, armed conflicts, supply chain disruptions and inflation. Those in resource-limited areas, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), bear the brunt of these challenges.

MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience, funded by the United States Agency for International Development and led by Corus organization IMA World Health, is increasing food availability in North Kivu, DRC.

MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience helped 236 families with acutely malnourished children under age five establish kitchen gardens to grow highly nutritious vegetables. With government support, the activity also provided these families with the seeds and tools needed to get started. Local agriculture extension workers and community health workers further supported these families with training on effective, environmentally friendly gardening techniques to ensure the success of the gardens.

The initiative targets children under age five and pregnant or lactating women in six health zones of North Kivu where escalations in protracted armed conflicts cause frequent internal displacements of families and communities.

Nzavake Matumaini, a 45-year-old mother of five children from Visiki village in the Ngengere health area of Butembo, highlights the impact of the support: “I was born in a farming community and had a small plot where I did some farming. The [recent] harvest was poor and could not feed my family, leading to one of my children being malnourished. To improve the yield, I thought of buying fertilizers but was not able to do so due to how costly they are these days. With advice from the technicians that MOMENTUM mobilized, I now know how to compost and use other natural ways of improving soil quality and controlling pests. The seeds I received are also better strains.”

Nzavake Matumaini (Photo credit: Theodore Kazigwa for MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience)

In addition to supporting families in setting up kitchen gardens, MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience has trained health care workers and community health volunteers to teach families how to prepare nutritious porridge. Known locally as four-star porridge, it contains a blend of foods containing the micronutrients needed for a child’s proper development.

Families can learn how to make four-star porridge at either a health facility during well-child clinics, or during routine immunization sessions for pregnant women. MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience also helped support the creation of 460 infant and young child feeding (IYCF) support groups in communities, and conducted sessions during which pregnant women, mothers, fathers and other caregivers learned and shared experiences about the IYCF strategy.

A decline in acute malnutrition in children and pregnant women has been observed since MOMENTUM Integrated Health Resilience began these supplemental nutrition activities. Kitchen gardens have reinforced the resilience of families when dealing with shocks and stressors due to conflict and inflation.

The program proved highly successful for Nzavake, prompting her to champion additional kitchen garden projects in her community. She shared her expertise and seeds with her peers. Through her efforts, even more gardens have been appearing in Butembo.

“As a housewife and mother, I'm now very optimistic about the future because my family now has food available thanks to the garden, which above all protects my children from illness,” says Nzavake. “As we will continue to consume what we produce, I hope to save up and use this money for the children's schooling and the family's general well-being. Finally, my contribution to coaching my community is a token of the positive change that can also come from a woman.”