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close this bookTeaching Conservation in Developing Nations (Peace Corps)
close this folderChapter 3: Conservation education in a health center
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View the documentNutrition
View the documentSanitation
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View the documentSource material - Chapter 3


The results of malnutrition on a nation's development cannot be ignored. When a large portion of the population is unable to realize its potential due to improper physical development or disease caused by poor diet, the loss to the nation is great. The periods of infancy and childhood require sizeable resources from both the family and the nation in terms of food and health care. When a child dies in adolescence, his/her use of those resources is totally lost. If he/she does not have a reasonably long or useful working life, again the food and health care used in his development will not be fully repaid, and the nation is losing a valuable natural resource.

The World Health Organization believes that protein calorie deficiency is the greatest public health problem in the world today. A health center conservation project that could be developed in cooperation with an agricultural agency would demonstrate how to develop better soil, how to choose an acceptable protein-rich plant food to grow, and how to prepare it for eating. (Protein-rich soybeans might be a possible crop to introduce). You will need a piece of land for a demonstration garden (see Appendix C for growing information and Chapter 5 for agricultural information).

If other kinds of diet deficiencies are an important problem in your area, a demonstration garden could grow those plant foods which would eliminate the deficiencies. You would have to work with the agricultural agent to identify which plants would grow well, and would also be culturally acceptable to these garden demonstrations. If the climate is suitable, papaya trees could be introduced to provide an easily grown source of vitamins A and C.

Another possibility might be the introduction of fish culture through a program following the Peace Corps/VITA manual, Freshwater Fish Pond Culture and Management Fish are an important protein-rich food and to grow fish in ponds is a more certain way of supplying fish for food than trying to catch fish from lakes, rivers or streams.

Nutrition education can be supported through the schools where children can learn the basic principles of good nutrition. They could grow fresh vegetables or fruits in a school demonstration garden, which they could take home to eat. A government-sponsored food program might be available to provide school children with a nutritionally balanced meal each day.

If floods or erosion are a frequent cause of crop loss in your area, you should encourage efforts in flood and erosion control by farmers, with help from agricultural agents, which would improve the local food supply. (See Chapter 5).

Where food supplies are threatened by loss during preservation and storage, improvement such as that detailed in the Peace Corps/VITA manual, Small Farm Grain Storage (see Chapter Sources), should be actively encouraged and supported by cooperative efforts with agricultural agents. Proper storage can reduce grain loss from 33% to 3% thus making an increased quantity of food available.

In urban areas, nutritional problems are intensified by the fact that consumer goods compete for whatever money is earned, and often the family diet loses out in this competition. An approach to this problem could be to illustrate, by using a flannelgraph story in the health center, that the balanced nutritious diet improves weight, muscular strength, endurance, and capacity to work as well as resistance to disease All of these qualities would tend to increase a person's ability to compete successfully in his/her environment.

Flannelghaph demonstration

Perhaps you could locate some land within the urban area which could be transformed into a community garden for supplementary food needs.

The health center should actively promote food cultivation as a health conservation measure. The health center must be the leader in suggesting and developing ideas to improve the community's nutrition. For an excellent book on the subject, see Learning Better Nutrition by Jean Ritchie/FAO (See Chapter Sources).