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
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
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