Gardens for Health International: Overcoming Malnutrition through Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture
At Gardens for Health, we are proving that growing and eating healthy food can—and must—be a part of the long-term solution to malnutrition.
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Gardens for Health International
Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
Rwanda: Musanze District, Rulindo District, and Gasabo District
Gardens for Health International is working to provide sustainable agricultural solutions to childhood malnutrition in Rwanda. Our diverse, innovative programming is changing the lives of families across the nation.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Malnutrition is arguably the most significant public health challenge facing Rwanda. A staggering 38% of children under five are chronically malnourished despite the fact that over 75% of the population is engaged in agriculture. Chronic malnutrition contributes to poorer performance in school, lower productivity, lower life expectancy, greater incidence of disease, and even costs the country 11% of its GDP each year.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
Our experience over the last 10 years has taught us that in order to end hunger and achieve lasting nutrition security, we must tackle the two interrelated challenges facing vulnerable families: a lack of access to diverse, healthy food, and a lack of education around proper nutrition. GHI’s model links and addresses these challenges.
At GHI, we work to transform the way malnutrition is treated by reimagining the intersection of agriculture and health. We enroll caregivers of chronically malnourished children into our program and provide them with a combination of hands-on agricultural assistance and culturally-sensitive and multidimensional health and nutrition trainings. This model rethinks the way communities are educated about nutrition, translating complex dietary concepts into fun and understandable lessons that demonstrate tangible actions families can take to overcome the cycle of malnutrition.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
We believe we must meet the world’s food needs with an approach that is environmentally responsible, recognizes the primacy of agriculture for nutrition, and strengthens local communities. Our Health Center Program is where we put this belief into action and our results are changing child health outcomes, not just at the time of delivery, but over the long-term. Two years after graduating from our program, 65% of children are on an improved growth trajectory. These improvements in child health outcomes stem from changes in household food consumption and production practices. On average, the number of vegetable varieties grown increased from 1.9 at baseline, to 5.7 one year later. In comparison, the national average is 1.8 vegetable varieties. Not only does eating a diverse diet contribute to positive health outcomes, growing a variety of crops also leads to increased environmental sustainability by improving biodiversity, regenerating soil quality, and protecting against crop failure.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
In order to ensure longevity and impact, our programs are funded through a diverse portfolio comprised of individual donors, foundations, and in-country partnerships. Our financial sustainability has been strengthened in recent years through increased in-country funding opportunities, most notably from partnerships with the U.S. State Department, World Food Program, Save the Children and Kate Spade & Company. We are actively pursuing new funding streams through the cultivation of private sector and corporate investments in Rwanda and the U.S. Currently, our operating budget is $1.1 million; 43% individual donations; 48% grants; 0% corporate contributions; 1% earned income; and 8% other.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
Our work fundamentally changes the way that malnutrition is treated by moving away from short-term handouts. Instead, through fun & engaging trainings, we equip families with the knowledge & resources to grow their own nutritious food at home. Our innovative model shifts the paradigm of dependency to one of prevention, self-sufficiency, & sustainability, and demonstrates a future in which the key to lasting food and nutrition security for vulnerable families truly does lie in their own backyards
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
While working with women in Rwanda, our co-founder, Julie Carney, encountered a situation that forever changed the way she thought about healthcare. When a mother desperately sought Julie’s help for her severely malnourished child, Julia quickly responded. She immediately rushed the woman and her child to the health clinic to save the child’s life. At the clinic, the child received emergency food aid and was soon able to go home; crisis averted.
But was it? As, Julie reflected on the experience, she realized that while the child received the care he needed, his situation only changed in the short term. This pointed to a larger problem—a purely treatment-oriented health approach used to address malnutrition was failing. This moment sparked a deeper exploration into the root causes of malnutrition and ways to address it in Rwanda—an exploration that led to the creation of GHI.
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