The potential contribution of a sustainable organic household food garden to vitamin A and vegetable needs of sampled low-income households, KwaZulu-Natal.
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Vitamin A deficiency is a worldwide public health problem. In South Africa, in 1999, 62 to 70 percent of children in rural areas and 48 to 62 percent in urban areas consumed less than half the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin. A. This study set out to investigate the potential contribution of home gardens to the vitamin A and vegetable needs of low-income households, especially in rural areas. The study problem was to develop a model of a sustainable household food garden to ensure adequate supply of vitamin A rich vegetables to meet the vitamin A requirements of low-income households throughout the year. The study subproblems included: first, to develop an organic household food garden unit to provide adequate vitamin A and vegetables for households. Second, to test the feasibility of the garden unit among sample households in two study areas. Third, to test vitamin A and vegetable adequacies of the garden unit for the sample households. A survey of 52 households from Department of Agriculture communal garden projects in Cuphulaka and Mlwandle in KwaZulu-Natal was conducted. The sample households were participants in communal gardens, but the survey dealt with household production only. Data included household demographics, types of vegetables grown, garden sizes, gardening practices, the socio-economic and environmental constraints of home gardening and the food frequency consumption. The garden unit was developed from a review of literature regarding best practice of organic production of vitamin A rich vegetables. The garden unit was demonstrated to the study participants and their perceptions of the unit were measured in discussion groups to test the acceptance and feasibility of the household garden. Data on household demographics and frequency of vegetable consumption was used to measure adequacy of vitamin A consumed by households and to test adequacy of vitamin A and vegetables from the garden unit. Most participants depended mainly on communal garden projects for vegetables. Although access to land seemed not a problem, few sample households practiced home gardening. Water scarcity and lack of fencing were frequently reported as constraints of home gardening by sample households who perceived home gardening as a cost-effective way of diversifying and adding nutrients to family diets. However, vegetable production in home gardens was characterised by low yields and seasonal availability. The potential of the household food gardens to increase vegetable production was found feasible by sample households. No significant difference was identified in vegetable consumption of households with and without home gardens. In fact, participation in communal gardens does not increase the vegetable consumption of sample households, which may be the result of no or low production and poor eating habits. The study assumed that rural households should consume at least 33 percent of RDA of vitamin A from vegetables, yet many sample households consumed less than this. Sample households could obtain enough vitamin A and vegetables from the garden unit/s, and in many cases they could have surpluses. Recommendations include the integration of home gardening in government strategies and integration of nutrition education in programmes that aim at increasing vegetable production in communal and home gardens in study areas.
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