A Kitchen-Garden Based Intervention to Improve Nutritional Outcomes of Children in Rural Areas
Severe malnutrition, especially amongst children, has been a persistent problem in India. With 14% of children undernourished, 34.7% stunted and 17.3% children wasted, India is home to the most wasted children out of all the countries assessed. Against the backdrop of this grim nutritional scenario, came the two subsequent waves of COVID-19 that battered the Indian economy. India’s GDP contracted by about 7.3% in 2020-21, the average monthly per capita consumption expenditure shrank about 9.1%, and the rate of unemployment spiked to about 12% in May 2021.2 The loss of employment and income arising from the COVID-19 outbreak has left Indian households even more vulnerable to food insecurity and child malnutrition. Not surprisingly, the 2020 Global Hunger Index placed India under the “serious” category.
In this project, the researchers propose to conduct a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) to measure the efficacy of a kitchen-garden based intervention as a possible strategy to mitigate the problem of severe malnutrition in rural villages in the Kanpur district in Uttar Pradesh. The experimental intervention will provide households (particularly women) with access to a workshop on how to raise a small nutri-garden (or kitchen garden) in their backyard. The beneficiaries will be provided with information on the nutritional value of different vegetables and fruits, information related to the benefits and costs associated with zero budget farming techniques (which encourages the use of their own seeds and locally available natural fertilizers). Further, some treated households will be provided a cash reimbursement of input costs conditional upon actually raising and maintaining a kitchen garden. Households in the rural regions often have sufficient space in the backyard of their houses, and establishing a kitchen garden will be easy for these agriculture-based households, who will not only gain macro- and micro-nutrients from the fruits and vegetables cultivated in these gardens but will also have an alternative avenue for income generation in case of an income shock in the future.