Dateline Kenya: Planting the Seeds of Better Nutrition

Getting enough food for a healthy and active life is a distant dream for many school-going children in the arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya. The Integrated Community Organization for Sustainable Empowerment and Education for Development (ICOSEED), through its Vegetable Gardening Project, is working with schools in these areas to brighten the outlook for these children. The gardening project supplements the government’s school feeding program by adding vegetables and fruits grown by the students to the menu.

In 2010, the Monsanto Fund supported ICOSEED and its partners and support continued in 2011 through a $195,000 grant. A technology resource kit was provided for each school and contained inputs and resources needed to build and maintain a quarter-acre garden under drip irrigation. The ICOSEED vegetable garden project has grown from 50 schools in 2010 to 125 schools today.

The project uses the school gardens as a platform to encourage the wider community to address their local food security and nutritional needs. The concept has been well-received in the community, with 23 other schools independently setting up their own vegetable gardens.

The Monsanto Fund is committed to supporting rural communities in critical needs through agriculture and education.

Boosting Potato Production

Kenya's second most important food crop after maize is the potato. Its high nutritive value and local trade opportunities provide subsistence farmers with an income.   

Though Kenya produces about 1.2 million tons of the crop each year - at an average of 5-10 tons/hectare, the country's potato yields are a quarter of those from the same amount of farmed land in Britain. Insect-transmitted viruses affect the plants' tubers, partly because the country's virus-free potato seed production is not well-developed.  Nearly all farmers grow their main crop from home-saved seed, most of which is infected.

Working with a $193,107 grant from the Monsanto Fund, the Scottish-based James Hutton Institute is collaborating with Kenyan researchers.  The researchers are based at the Masinde Muliro University of Science, the University of Nairobi and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI).  Researchers are creating virus-free seed tubers and demonstrating the benefits of clean seeds to Kenyan farmers. The project gives farmers access to disease-free tubers in hopes of increasing their yield and income potential.