Home gardens of fruits and vegetables play an important role in fulfilling dietary and nutritional needs by providing households with direct access to food that can be harvested, prepared and consumed by them on a regular basis. Studies have shown that intake of fruits and vegetables that are rich in micronutrients can help address the problem of micronutrient deficiencies especially vitamin A deficiency and iron deficiency anaemia. MSSRF terms home or kitchen gardens designed with the focused objective of addressing nutritional deficiencies as ‘Nutrition Garden’ to highlight the emphasis on nutrition.
Nutrition Gardens with fruit trees and all three groups of vegetables were promoted as part of a Farming system for nutrition study during 2013-2018 in 7 villages of Koraput district, Odisha and 5 villages of Wardha district, Maharashtra. The gardens were initiated at three levels: homestead land, schools and at community level on common land and managed by women’s groups. The study showed that availability of and access to different groups of vegetables increased; most of which are being consumed by the households; the produce from community nutrition gardens in Wardha was shared by the members. The produce from school nutrition gardens was used in noon meal programme. Over a period of two years, a significant increase in availability and quantity and frequency of consumption of fruits and vegetables was observed.
Endline survey in 2017 revealed that the average consumption of fruits, green leafy vegetables, roots & tubers and other vegetables increased in the households who participated in the intervention, when compared with before the intervention in both study locations. In Wardha, recommended dietary intake (RDI) of fruits and other vegetables was almost met and in Koraput fruits, green leafy vegetables and other vegetable consumed was more than the RDI. The average intake of micronutrients – vitamin C, vitamin A, dietary folate, calcium and iron were significantly high in households when compared with non intervention households. For sustainability, village women groups were trained and encouraged to maintain seed banks. Nutrition gardens prove to be a cost effective approach to make micronutrient rich foods accessible to the entire household and contribute to improve the quality of diets.