The United Nations has named 2014 the International Year of Family Farming. And on May 11th we will celebrate mothers around the world on Mother's Day.
At Gardens for Health International, we want to take advantage of this confluence of events to celebrate the millions of mothers throughout Sub-Saharan Africa who are changing the landscape of food and nutrition for their families and communities.
Gardens for Health International was founded on the premise that growing and eating healthy food can—and must—be a part of healthcare. Our core program works in Rwanda to integrate agriculture into the clinical treatment of malnutrition, so that vulnerable families are equipped with the seeds and support to feed their children a nutritious diet over the long term.
We work primarily with mothers, many of whom are trying to eke out a meager living on marginal land and on the margins of society. They are farming on steep slopes and attempting to grow crops in poor soil. Every resource they have—from seeds, to tools, to time—is heavily constrained.
Yet by making relatively simple changes in both what they are growing and how they are farming, these mothers are able to invest in the long-term health of their land while simultaneously improving the health and nutrition of their families.
We help mothers in our program to select a seed package that includes things like indigenous leafy green vegetables, which grow well in local soils and are rich in nutrients, and agroforestry trees, which help prevent erosion and fix nitrogen in the soil. At the same time, we provide mothers and families with fruit and avocado trees, representing a long-term investment in both their land and their families' health.
This May, we want to honor the investment that the mothers in our program—and mothers like them throughout the region—are making in their children and in their land.
We believe that human health and flourishing rely on the health and flourishing of the ecosystems of which we are a part, and we are honored to work alongside passionate and dedicated mothers who are proving that it is possible to build healthy soils, grow healthy plants, and nourish healthy people—even, and perhaps especially, in resource-poor settings like Rwanda.
Julie Carney is the co-founder and Country Director of Gardens for Health International. Jessie Cronan joined the organization as Executive Director in 2012, and together the pair lead a team of over 50 amazing individuals who are dedicated to empowering families and communities with sustainable agricultural solutions to chronic malnutrition.