Gardens for Health International

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Gardens for Health International (GHI), an American 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, seeks to provide sustainable agricultural solutions to the problem of chronic childhood malnutrition. The organization partners with rural health centers in the Gasabo and Musanze districts of Rwanda to equip families facing malnutrition with seeds, livestock, and know-how, aiming to shift the paradigm of food aid dependency to one of prevention and self-sufficiency.

History[edit]

GHI was founded in 2007 by then college students Emma Clippinger, Emily Morell Balkin, and Julie Carney, with the goal of providing lasting agricultural solutions to pressing public health problems in Rwanda.[1][2] Clippinger and Morell met in the summer of 2006 while interning in Rwanda with the Clinton Foundation’s HIV/AIDS initiative. They became interested in identifying programs that used agriculture as a means to improve nutrition and health rather than solely as a means to increase income.

Carney joined the founding team in 2007 and became GHI’s first country director in 2008, when she launched GHI’s pilot program.[3] In response to Rwanda’s 44% childhood malnutrition rate,[4] GHI’s programming evolved to focus on this particular public health challenge. Under Carney, GHI launched its core effort in August 2010, in the form of a health center program. Through this program, GHI partners with rural health centers with the aim of bringing lasting agricultural solutions to families in need at the point of care.

Carney approached the design and implementation of this health center program through the lens of community-led development. The GHI curriculum and training methodology was created in partnership with mothers that the organization serves, and the organization's agriculture team works cross-culturally to continue designing interventions.

Approach[edit]

GHI works at the nexus of health and agriculture, aiming to address the root causes of malnutrition and investing in the productivity of the families served. The program targets the caregivers of children under five who are suffering from malnutrition. In nearly every case, these caregivers are women.

When a child comes into one of GHI's partner health centers and is diagnosed with malnutrition, two things happen: the child receives a prescription for emergency food aid, and their caregiver receives a “prescription” for the GHI program. GHI works with each family in the program to plant a home garden, and trained field staff visit each family in their home, where they help design a garden that meets the respective family’s specific needs, placing particular importance on increasing the dietary diversity of the household. GHI's home garden design focuses on providing families with the resources that will best empower them to achieve lasting food security. GHI thus provides inputs and promotes gardening practices that are low-risk and self-replicable.

In addition to targeted agricultural assistance, every family in GHI's program participates in a fourteen-week health and nutrition training course. Recognizing the complex nature of the problem of malnutrition, these classes also broach often taboo topics such as family planning and mental illness. GHI simultaneously trains health center leadership and community health workers in the prevention, identification, and treatment of malnutrition.

Partners[edit]

GHI works closely with the government of Rwanda, working within the rural health center system, and has been identified as a key partner in a national plan to eliminate malnutrition. Currently, GHI works with four health centers in |Rwanda's Gasabo district: Gikomero, Rubungo, Nyaconga, and Kayanga. In the Musanze district, it works with four health centers: Murandi, Gasiza, Shingiro, and Kinigi. GHI provides nutrition workshops to workers at these health centers through the ACCESS project and partners with the Segal Family Foundation to offer training to clinical partners throughout these regions.[5]

The organization also works with the European Union and UNICEF [6] to advocate for policies and programs that promote sustainable, nutrition-based agricultural practices as well as the integration of holistic, peer-based education into the prevention and treatment of malnutrition. GHI presented at the Rwandan Ministry of Health's 2011 and 2014 National Nutrition Summit, contributed to the National Strategy for the Transformation of Agriculture in 2013 and participated in the 2012 Skoll World Forum and the 2012 Opportunity Collaboration.

Accolades[edit]

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