There are many connections between rural livelihoods and health, including improved nutrition and sanitation, control of disease-carrying insects, hygiene in food processing and safe use of agrochemicals.
In Nigeria, it is estimated that every year over 90,000 women and children die from illnesses caused by breathing smoke from open fires and cooking stoves. Felling of trees to provide the large amount of firewood used to cook food and keep warm is also causing deforestation, and this not only leads to soil erosion, but also contributes to climate change. The Nigerian Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, with support from its global partner, has launched an initiative to introduce clean and efficient cooking stoves to 10 million Nigerian households by 2020. At the launch event in Abuja, Aveseh Asough speaks to those involved in this ambitious project, and learns more about how new designs of cooking stove can improve the health of women, children and the environment.
published: April 2012
Beans are a staple food in Rwanda. Normal varieties only have low levels of minerals, but the HarvestPlus programme has supported the Rwanda Agriculture Board to breed new varieties rich in iron and zinc. The beans are also high yielding and popular with consumers because of their colour. And with high levels of iron, they can help in tackling anaemia, which affects up to 30 per cent of women in Rwanda and more than half of children under five. By making the new beans available in small packs, HarvestPlus aims to distribute them to 200,000 farmers per year. It is also supporting iron-rich bean breeding in other countries, such as Uganda, DRC, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya.
published: February 2012
Members of the Tigithi Aloe Group, who live in semi-arid Laikipia, on the leeward side of Mount Kenya, have diversified into growing medicinal plant species, particularly trees. They are working with Desert Edge, a company which trains the farmers in cultivation and sustainable harvesting techniques, and buys their plant products. Through value addition, Desert Edge can pay a good price for the medicinal products, making the trees more valuable as a sustainably harvested resource than as timber or charcoal. Group chairman Simon Wachira and Desert Edge business development manager, Maxwell Lumbasi explain more about how cultivating indigenous medicinal plants can earn income and protect the environment.
published: February 2012
In Nigeria, a team of national and international crop breeders, coordinated by the HarvestPlus programme, have spent the last eight years developing varieties of cassava with high levels of Vitamin A, using conventional crop breeding techniques (not genetic modification). These yellow fleshed cassava tubers, if widely grown and eaten, could contribute significantly to a reduction in Vitamin A deficiency, a cause of poor health in as much as a third of Nigeria’s rural children. Three high yielding, Vitamin A-rich varieties are now ready for release and a multiplication programme is underway to make them widely available. Aveseh Asough visits crop breeders at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan, and speaks to those involved in the multiplication process.
published: November 2011
A simple water filter made from local resources - primarily sand, gravel and cement - and costing around US$30, can remove over 90% of many common water-borne pathogens. BioSand filters can also clean up to 80 litres of water each day, making them ideal for use by individual households. Following community-based training in several countries, including Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Sudan, some groups have even started using the filters to generate income from sales of clean water. Gilbert Olakashem of Connect Africa, an organisation promoting the filters, explains more to Wambi Michael.
published: October 2011
One in five children in Uganda suffers from Vitamin A deficiency, which causes night blindness, slow growth and weakens the immune system. The HarvestPlus programme is promoting four varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potato, which have high levels of Vitamin A. Eating the sweet potatoes on a regular basis gives adults and children the required amounts of this essential vitamin, as Wambi Michael learns when he speaks to a nutritionist from the programme. He also learns about how the crop is being spread, speaking to an agronomist, a marketing adviser, and one of the farmers who has been growing the crop since 2007.
published: September 2011
In the town of Kerugoya, central Kenya, a new health clinic has recently opened, with a specialist maternity unit and a laboratory for disease diagnosis. But this clinic is different from many. It was built with money earned from sales of an export crop - French beans. The Kenya Horticultural Exporters company, which buys the beans from local farmers, has matched money saved by the farmers from their sales, to build and equip the new clinic. Eric Kadenge has a tour of the new facility with deputy nurse Florence Wanguru, meeting proud new mother Agnes Wangari, and her baby, Abigail.
published: May 2011
Shea butter, extracted from the nuts of the Shea tree, has numerous uses in skin care and beauty treatments. The tree can be found in a wide belt of savannah stretching from Senegal to Sudan, including countries such as Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Uganda. And in Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, rural women have formed cooperatives in order to bulk up the nuts they collect, for processing and sale. From Lagos, Aveseh Asough speaks to many users of Shea butter, as well as a researcher who is working with the women's groups to expand their production.
published: March 2011
Kenya's Healthy Learning programme, running in 30 schools in eight arid and semi-arid districts, aims to improve child health and teach valuable skills for life. From simple activities such as hand-washing to production of crops for food and income, the programme integrates important life skills with academic learning, and encourages children to take what they learn at school and implement it at home. Geoffrey Onditi reports from Narumoru Primary School, where he speaks to the head teacher and to some of the pupils about the programme, and the benefits it is giving them.
published: February 2011
Poor sanitation is a major cause of illness in urban slum areas. Managing human waste in these densely populated areas with few facilities is very difficult. One solution that has now been adopted in several African countries is the use of Ecosan toilets. Unlike pit latrines, the toilets are designed to separate solid waste and liquid urine, allowing both to be separately collected and used as a safe form of fertiliser in farmers' fields. Overcoming taboos about human waste is very challenging, but environmental scientist Precious Chabvuta is committed to promoting 'humanure', to improve sanitation and crop production in some of Malawi's poorest communities.
published: January 2011
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