Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nutrition seminars

by Colleen Walton
Aug 27
Today was the first day of nutrition seminars. Micronutrient deficiencies, coined as ”Hidden Hunger”, are prevalent in developing countries world wide. Vitamin A, Zinc, Iron and Iodine are the key nutrients of interest for optimal mental and physical development and immunity(UNICEF). Food based strategies for combating Hidden Hunger include:
 increased consumption of dark green and orange fruits and vegetables (Vitamin A),
 increased consumption of animal source foods (Zinc and Iron),
 improving absorption of zinc and iron from vegetarian diets through reducing anti-nutrients in the diet by soaking beans prior to cooking and drinking tea two hours before or after a meal.
 Preparing nutritionally balanced porridge, using milk, for small children and nursing moms.

Together with nutrition information based on the Kenyan Food Pyramid, these are the key messages for our seminars.

Regina and Gerald has identified locations and I had identified farmers to attend, taking ½ from each membership group, selected randomly except where interviewees were living very close together. In the latter case, the group of 2 or 3 members were selected for August or January seminar. Sam, Hilda, Regina and I had prepared, translated and copied a Family Nutrition Fact Sheet, and recipes and planting and harvesting directions for the traditional, drought tolerant, leafy greens. Francis (our house chef) was up at 4:30am to finish cooking the soaked maize and beans into githeri, and then into fried githeri as well as prepare pumpkin chapati and a mixed dish of managu, terere, and mafake (all traditional leafy greens).

Sam and I picked up Regina (research assistant extrordinare) and Hilda (nutritionist) at 8:30 and headed into the hills to the coffee factory for the first seminar. Several women from 'far' were already there and people trickled in until about 10 am when we started. Hilda is a very good adult educator, engaging everyone with her questions, laugh and antics driving home key messages of family nutrition and combating Hidden Hunger.

People were very happy with the seminar and asked alot of questions, wanting Hilda to stay and talk longer so they could learn more. I of course want to see the knowledge in action, come January, so we stopped according to our schedule and had our food tasting session, presenting some of the ways that each family can combat Hidden Hunger in their homes.

The food samples were a hit and people were very surprised that the beans were soaked, that it was dried maize that was so soft and tasty, that the traditional greens tasted so good and that there was mashed pumpking in the beautiful chapatis!

During the interviews most women interviewees reported knowledge of soaking beans but did not practice as it “reportedly” impaired the taste of the githeri. Traditional, drought tolerant leafy greens have a `poverty` perception thus farmers tend toward kales and chard despite these crops needing more water and being less pest resistant. We were told that “city folk” in Kenya are moving back to these traditional greens so in addition to eating them from their own farms, there may be an income opportunity from these greens as well.

They were appreciative of the Family Nutrition fact sheet, the seeds and directions for the Traditional greens (terere, managu, saget, and clotalaria) and for the cooking oil. The seminar began with a prayer, finished with a song and ended with another prayer. Many thanks were given to Farmers Helping Farmers and to the supporters of this project for the information and gifts.

Over the course of four seminars in two days, only 3 families of the 58 invited failed to show up for the training.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nursing Students - Update

We are on our last week of work at the hospital here in Kenya. As Rianne mentioned, we have been spending our time working at St Theresa’s Mission hospital in Kiirua. It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has passed; however, we have managed to gain a remarkable amount of knowledge and experience in the short time that we have spent here.

Last week, we travelled to Mukurwe-ini to visit Colleen and Lisa and see the work being done in their area. We had the pleasure of visiting the Wakulima dairy project and learning about the activities that take place there. We also accompanied them in carrying out their research on the quality life and diet of the community. Through travelling to different homes and conducting surveys, we were able to learn about the typical diet of a family in that particular community. As nursing students, this was of great interest to us considering how significantly the diet of an individual effects the outcome of their health and healing. It was not difficult to determine that the work of Farmer’s Helping Farmer’s greatly correlates with our work here as nursing students.

Tomorrow, we will be travelling to the Muchui women’s group to obtain a second set of blood pressures. After seeing this group of women several weeks ago, and determining how high their blood pressures were, we have decided to return once more to follow up. We are hoping that after having educated the women on lifestyle changes that can potentially lower blood pressure, and encouraging certain women whose BP’s were significantly high to see a Doctor, that these women are continuing to work on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We will keep everyone posted on whether or not our intervention was successful!