SP 13
< Queen of African Indigenous Vegetables visits researchers in Freiburg and Karlsruhe
24.08.2017 10:00 Age: 3 yrs
Category: SP 13, General HORTINLEA, PhD & Master theses

Starting Early - How Does School Gardening of AIVs affect Students’ Nutritional Knowledge and Attitudes?

Linda Sigilai planted AIVs in school gardens to evaluate students' nutritional knowledge and attitude. © Linda Sigilai

The vegetables had to be fenced off from various animals such as chickens. © Linda Sigilai

Food insecurity and malnutrition is a major issue in Kenya. In 2011 33% of children in Kenya were anemic and 42% of school children suffered from iron deficiency. However, children learn quickly about nutrition and how activity benefits their health. It is also the time they begin to choose their own lifestyles. Many children consume at least half of their food in school and for most of them, this may be the only meal they eat regularly. In combination with the important role of schools in dissemination of knowledge, I decided to write my Master thesis on “The Effect of School Gardening of AIVs and Related Interventions on Nutritional Knowledge, Attitude and Practices of High School Students” within the framework of the HORTINLEA Master’s Thesis Programme. I conducted a field study in Kakamega central zone, Kakamega County and Kakamega Township.

At the beginning of the field phase I visited the schools to seek permission from the school administrators. The responses were positive and most schools provided agriculture and home science teachers to support the project. Unfortunately, there was only little space for growing the indigenous vegetables as the space for school farms was reserved for the national examination practical agriculture paper. Moreover, most schools did not have an enclosure which made it easy for farm animals to destroy the garden. A majority of the students who took part in the study were between 13-15 years. Their attitude towards indigenous vegetables was positive, probably because they are used to eat these vegetables in Kakamega County. This region receives adequate rainfall and local meal cultures include indigenous vegetables. Thus, eating and handling AIVs was nothing new to them. During the period of study, it was also rainy season which meant that the vegetables were readily available in children’s homes and in the market.

Challenges of growing AIVs

Unlike the general view that children do not like AIVs, it became apparent that the attitudes of the respondents was positive. Nevertheless, there was a gender gap in relation to consumption and preparation. Most of the male students did not know how to prepare the vegetables. Furthermore, the production of AIVs becomes increasingly difficult as more people live in rental houses, even in Kakamega, a more rural area. Thus, AIVs are rather expensive, an emerging challenge. Generally, the field phase was successful and the support from the schools and teachers was great. However, we also faced some setbacks. The nightshade that was planted in the school gardens did not grow well in the majority of schools except for one. The cowpea grew very well in all schools but took quite long to mature which meant that students were on April break when it was ready to be consumed. In one school, the school garden was not well fenced and the vegetables were destroyed by chicken and goats.

The need for gardening, nutrition education and cooking skills for students is an area where more can be done. Using innovative gardening methods is a necessity to overcome the gap caused by limited land. Also, more emphasis on gender and how it affects preparation and consumption of vegetables should be looked into. It would also be of great interest to look at the nutritional knowledge, attitudes, consumption and production habits in Eastern Kenya and the arid and semi-arid lands where the vegetables are not as regularly consumed as in Western Kenya.


© Linda Sigilai