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close this bookPopulation and Nutrition (FAO)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAims/objectives
View the documentBasic concepts
View the documentActivity no. 1 - The group meal
View the documentActivity no. 2 - The nutrition doctor
View the documentActivity no. 3 - Building a drying rack for vegetables



Before using this guide, please read the notes in the introduction booklet.

All of the material in this module has been carefully thought out and tested with youth groups in a number of countries. It contains material which is thought to be important and appropriate for young people to know. However, because every group is different, it is not possible to produce a booklet which is perfect for everyone, so it is important to remember that this booklet is intended as a guide for the leader.

This means that it is up to you the leader to use this material as you see fit You may wish to adapt some of the group activities to make them more appropriate to your group.

Some of the material you may not wish to present yourself - perhaps because you do not feel technically competent or because you find it embarrassing or awkward to discuss certain matters with the youth group. In these cases you may wish to ask a local expert in that subject to address your youth group. For example, an agricultural extension officer for the agriculture projects, a small business advisor for income generating activities or a health worker for the health and nutrition aspects. Use of a resource person like this does not make your role as the group leader any less important, but they can add interest and authority to the subjects taught.

The modules may be used in any order, but the modules with the same colour cover are best used together since they cover one general area

First edition was published and field tested in 1988 and 1989 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Project INT/88/P98 "Integration of Population Education into Programmes for Rural Youth in Low-Income Countries" with funding from the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA).

This revision was published in 1990 and is based on field test findings from the first edition.

The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of FAO. The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Original Concept and Text: W.I. Lindley & S.A. Dembner
This Revision: J.F. Cook
Original Illustrations: Teresa CedeR>This Revision: Pandora Money


By participating in the activities of this module, it is intended that the group members will recognize (he able to state):

· The need for proper nutrition and nutritients provided by the five main food groups.

· The causes, effects and control measures for four common nutrition-related conditions and diseases.

· At least one important way in which rapid population growth affects nutrition.

· The importance of proper preservation and preparation of foodstuffs in achieving good nutrition.

· The importance of breast-feeding for the health of the child and the mother.

Basic concepts

· Nutrition is the process by which we obtain the substances our bodies need to grow and keep functioning properly.

· Different types of foods supply different nutrients.

· People need to eat a balanced diet that provides all the nutritional elements, to eat enough food to avoid hunger, and to eat a variety of foods to satisfy taste.

· Poor nutrition can lead to conditions or diseases which make it impossible for the body to function properly.

· Proper breast-feeding, weaning and feeding practices are very important in ensuring the proper nutrition of babies.

· Family size affects both food quality and quantity. People in large families with limited resources are more likely to suffer from poor nutrition.

Activity no. 1 - The group meal

The group meal

An activity in which group members create imaginary meals to highlight the importance of a balanced diet in proper nutrition.



· The group leader starts off by telling the story of the group lunches, in which each person makes one part of the meal but all end up preparing the same dish (the story is on pages 18-19).

· The leader then asks the group to reflect on what went wrong with the meal - why it was unbalanced, boring, etc.

· The leader explains about food groups. He/she asks group members to call out names of foods and writes them on the board in their food groups. There are some foods listed on pages 14-16 which can be used to add to the lists. Only foods which are found locally should be used however.

· To get the group to understand the idea of a balanced meal, the leader divides the participants into five smaller groups, one for each of the basic food types, i.e., cereals and grains; roots and tubers; legumes and oil seeds; animal foods and fish: fruits and vegetables. To make the concept clearer, the leader gives each group a set of pie-shaped cards containing pictures of foods of this type. Each of the participants selects a specific food from his or her group.

· Then the groups come together and regroup to form balanced meals. In each "balanced meal", each group member states what food he has "prepared" and what its contribution is to a balanced diet.

· The leader asks the other groups if anything is missing from each meal and comments on whether or not it is well balanced. (Check for fats and oils which are especially important in the diet of small children to provide energy.) He/she reminds the group members that a balanced meal must do three things: provide the essential nutrients our body needs, satisfy our hunger and satisfy our taste.

· Finally, the group discusses the reasons why meals are not always well balanced (taste, customs, time to prepare foods, costs, difficulty in obtaining foods, etc.).


So that group members will be able to:

· Understand that different foods have different nutritional value.

· Recognize that a combination of food types is required for a balanced, nutritious diet.



· The introductory story on pages 18-19.

· The food lists on pages 14-16.

· Participation of the group.

· The food cards which combine to make balanced meals (included in the population kit).

Some background information for the group leader

What do we mean by nutrition and why is it important?

By nutrition we mean the process by which living things, in this case people, obtain the substances they need to keep working properly. People obtain nearly all of their nourishment through the food they eat. Health and physical and mental development are all directly related to the quantity and quality of our diet.

We depend on the food we eat to provide the nutrients our body needs for:

Growth. As young people grow, their bodies require high levels of nutrients. The rate of growth is most rapid during the first five years of life and creates a high demand for all nutrients. For example, a well fed, healthy baby's weight often doubles in its first six months.

Nutritional requirements for growth continue at high levels through youth and gradually decrease

as we reach adulthood. It is important to remember that young men and young women have the same nutritional requirements.

Physical activity. The more active a person is, the more energy he or she needs. In rural communities, there are often big differences in the amount of energy people use at different times of the year. When the land is being cleared and prepared for planting, energy needs are high. This may also be a time when little food is available - the hungry season - so that people may not have enough nourishment at the time when they need it most. This may result in weakness or sickness.

Repair. When we become sick or suffer a physical accident, the bopy needs extra energy to combat the problem. Unfortunately, many conditions or diseases reduce our appetite, making it difficult for the body to obtain enough nutrition.

Pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant her body works extra hard and need for food increases. If the mother does not get enough nourishment before and during the time she is pregnant, her baby is much more likely to be horn small and at a greater risk of dying young. The mother's health also may suffer. A woman who does not get enough nourishment and has many children, one after another, is at very high risk. During pregnancy, a woman should eat less salt and fats and each day she should have at least the following:

a) Some meat, an egg, or fish
b) Fresh or cooked vegetables
c) Fresh fruit
d) Milk

A women with his child

Breast-Feeding. When a mother is breast-feeding her locale, she needs to have a balanced diet and drink plenty of liquids especially milk, otherwise her health and that of her baby will suffer. The mother's milk is very important to ensure proper nutrition for the baby. Extending the breast-feeding period can improve the baby's nutrition, and also helps to increase the length of time between pregnancies. However, after the fourth month, breast milk is not enough by itself to meet all the baby's nutritional needs and solid foods should be added. This process of gradually adding solid foods and reducing mother's milk, is called weaning.

What nutrition does the body get from the various types of foods we eat?

1. Cereals and coarse grains. Cereals and coarse grains (wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, millet, etc.) are a basic part of the diet for most people in developing countries. Which are the most important cereal crops in your area?

Cereals and coarse grains

Cereals are good sources of energy for physical activity and they also contain some protein for body building and growth. However, the protein in cereals is not enough to ensure good growth by itself.

2. Roots and tubers. Roots and tubers such as cassava, potato and yams are widely eaten in many areas because they are easy and inexpensive to produce and give good yields even in periods of drought. Roots and tubers are also good sources of energy, but they contain almost no protein. As a result, they are not enough to provide good nutrition by themselves. For example, someone who eats only cassava will quickly become weak.

Roots and tubers

3. Legumes and oil seeds. Legumes, that is beans and plants in the bean family (for example, groundnuts) are very good sources of the protein our bodies need to grow and to recover from sickness and injury. Groundnuts and oil seeds are also good sources of oil (see fats and oils, page 13).

Legumes and oil seeds

4. Meat, fish and other animal products. Meat, dairy products, fish and eggs are the foods with the highest supply of protein but many people in developing countries don't eat much of these foods because they are expensive and sometimes unavailable. Even a small amount of these foods can make can make a big difference in our nutritional level.

Meat, fish and other animal products

5. Fruits and vegetables. Most fruits and vegetables don't provide our bodies with very much energy or protein, and yet they are essential for good nutrition. This is because they supply vitamins and minerals which help the body get the most out of the energy and protein foods. They also contain fibres which are needed for normal digestion of food. Vitamins keep certain special parts of the body functioning properly. For example, Vitamin A, contained in dark green, leafy vegetables, paw paw, and pumpkin, helps to keep our eyesight good and Vitamin C, contained in many fruits is essential for healthy gums. Iodine, one of the most important minerals, is present in all seafoods and some salt called iodised salt. It is not present in fresh water. Lack of iodine causes goitre - an enlargement; of the thyroid gland. The main symptom of goitre is a swollen neck.

Fruits and vegetables

In many countries now' iodine is added to all salt sold for food.

Finally, balanced diets also need to contain fats and oils.

Fats and oils are a very concentrated form of energy. They make food easier and tastier to eat and add to the amount of energy in it without increasing its volume. Fats and oils are especially important in the diet of small children. It is difficult for small children to eat enough food to provide them with the energy they need unless the diet contains some fat or oil or oil-rich foods.

Good sources of fats and oils are found in food groups 3, 4 and 5 as below:

Food Group 3: Groundnuts and oilseeds..

Food Group 4: Milk, butter, ghee, cheese and animal fats.

Food Group 5: Avocado. (Avocado is one of the few fruits and vegetables which do contain a high amount of energy.)

Major Energy Sources
(needed for energy, for work and body maintenance)

Sugar & sugar products
Bananas & plantains
Oils & fats
Soybean, sesame & other oilseeds
Beans & peas

Major Protein Sources
(needed to form healthy skin, bone, muscles, blood, hair)

Beans & peas

Important Vitamin Sources

Vitamin B

Vitamin A

Vitamin C

(helps other nutrients to be properly used)

(needed for healthy skin & normal eyesight)

(important for healing wounds & forming blood)

Leafy vegetables

Coloured fruit & vegetables (the darker the colour, the more Vitamin A)

Fruits & vegetables Liver




Beans & peas




All cereals (especially wholegrains)

Meat & fish


Important Mineral Sources
(needed for control of body processes)




(especially important in blood formation

(essential for healthy bones and teeth)

(needed to prevent goitre - thyroid gland disorder which gives a

Offal such as liver, kidney

Milk, cheese

All seafood

Small fish eaten whole

Chick peas, kidney beans, soy beans

Iodised salt


Medium and dark green leafy vegetables

Chick peas

Small fish eaten whole Insects

Kidney beans


Dark green leafy vegetables

Dried fruit

What do we mean by a balanced diet?

A balanced diet provides the nutritional elements that every person's body needs to grow and keep functioning properly. It also is enough in quantity to satisfy our appetite. In addition, a balanced diet should have enough variety to content our taste desires. In other words, a balanced diet is nutritious, filling and tasty.

For good nutrition our bodies need supplies of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, plus, of course, water. This means that we need to eat a combination of foods which will supply all these. Therefore, a balanced diet means eating some energy foods (fats and oils, cereals, roots, tubers); some protein foods (legumes, meat, fish or dairy products); and some fruits and vegetables.

The group meal
The story to start the activity

The members of the Newtown Young Farmers Club were allocated a plot of land to cultivate by the chief but it was far away from the village and needed to be cleared and prepared. So the group members agreed that for three days they would all go together to their plot and work on it all day. This meant that they would not be able to return to the village for their noontime meal, so they agreed that each person would bring some kind of food and that they would all eat together.


The first day, when it got to be time to eat, each member of the group opened up his package and they found - surprise - everyone had brought the same thing - a big bowl of maize meal. There was so much food that everyone felt very full, but the meal was rather dull, because everything tasted exactly the same.

The second day, at mealtime, only two or three people had brought packages, and they were all maize meal again. One of the group members said, "I forgot," and one said, "There was so much food yesterday that I thought we wouldn't need mine." One person who had brought maize meal said, "That's all we had at home." So the group members divided up the maize meal between them, but it wasn't enough and they all went hack to work feeling very hungry.

The third day, when it was time to eat, each one opened his package and - oh no! - everyone had brought maize meal again. The group members looked at each other and said, "Well, I was sure that you wouldn't make the same thing again, so I did." After the meal, everyone was full, but not very happy. "You know," said one of the group members, "The way we are eating is not very satisfying, and I bet it isn't very healthy either."

Activity no. 2 - The nutrition doctor

The nutrition doctor

A role-playing activity to teach group members to recognize conditions related to nutrition deficiency, their causes and how they can be prevented.



Note: It is important that the leader and the other group members help the "doctor" to make the correct diagnosis. The other group members can participate as "consulting doctors".

· The leader explains that the group is going to play a game of patient and nutrition doctor.

· First the leader tells the group about the major nutrition-related conditions, copies the chart on the following pages onto a chalkboard or large piece of paper so all the group members can see it, and shows the pictures of malnutrition-related diseases on the following pages.

· The leader asks for two volunteers, one to be the patient and one to be the doctor. The patient describes his imaginary symptoms (or those of a younger brother or sister).

· The doctor asks the patient what he has been eating, how many people are in the family, whether they have enough food. With the help of the group members, the "doctor" identifies the condition and suggests what needs to be done to correct it.

· The role-playing continues with a new doctor and a new patient.


So that group members will be able to:

· Recognize the symptoms of common nutrition-related disorders.

· Understand the importance of a balanced diet in preventing these disorders.

· See the connection between population growth, family size and nutrition levels.



· The chart on the following pages (copied onto a chalkboard or large piece of paper), and the illustrations to show the group members.

· Guidance from the group leader to ensure that correct diagnoses are made.

· Possible assistance from a health worker.

· Participation and enthusiasm of the group.

Some background information for the group leader

What do we mean by malnutrition?

When the body doesn't get the supplies it needs from the food we eat, malnutrition is the result. That is, the body becomes unable to perform its basic functions properly. Malnutrition can be a vicious cycle for the subsistence farmer.

The problem of malnutrition is worst among children. Children who are malnourished grow poorly and even their mental capacity can be affected. In families with too many people and too few resources to provide adequate nutrition for all, the children suffer in many ways. If resources are not adequate, food, shelter, clothing and education all tend to be inadequate. In addition, children need love and attention but in families where nutrition levels are low, the parents are often too tired and overworked to give time and affection to their children.


Malnutrition is also a very serious problem for pregnant women and their babies. A pregnant woman (or one that is breast-feeding) needs more nourishment than usual. If she does not get this extra nutrition, both she and her baby are much more likely to be weak and/or sick


What happens when we don't get enough of the basic types of food? What are common nutrition-related conditions and means of prevention?

When food supplies are very low, people do not get enough protein-energy nutrients. Children are the first to be affected. The common causes of protein-energy malnutrition are:

Early or sudden ending of breast-feeding. Mothers should be encouraged to continue breast-feeding until the child is at least 18-24 months old. Often, however, the mother stops breast-feeding her baby much earlier, and if she becomes pregnant again, she often stops breast-feeding suddenly. If this happens, the baby may refuse to eat other forms of food and malnutrition can occur. Therefore, spacing of pregnancies is an important step in reducing malnutrition of both mother and child

Late introduction of solid foods. Even though the mother should continue breast-feeding her child, from the age of four to six months onward, the child needs other types of food in addition. This process of introducing solid foods is called weaning. If weaning is delayed, malnutrition may occur.

The food

Note: Diarrhœa is a serious problem causing weakness and even death especially in young children. The leaders guide on Population and Health discusses this in detail and describes a simple treatment - oral rehydration treatment or ORT

Poor eating habits. A child should eat at least four times each day.

Infections. Diarrhœa, internal parasites and fevers such as malaria can result in protein deficiency. Clean conditions for preparation of food are essential to help avoid disease.

If the lack of protein-energy foods is extreme, children may develop marasmus or kwashiorkor.

Marasmus is most common in children under one year of age and is characterized by inadequate body weight, wasted muscles, almost no body fat and general lack of energy.

Kwashiorkor usually occurs later than marasmus. The most obvious sign of kwashiorkor is swelling of the feet, lower legs and stomach. The child has a round 'moon face' and may look fat because of the swollen stomach. Hair often turns red or brown and starts to fall out and in very serious cases, the skin becomes blotehed and flaky. Kwashiorkor commonly occurs when children stop breast-feeding and are put onto diets with only energy foods (for example, cassava).



In summary, both marasmus and kwashiorkor are nutrition-related disorders resulting from not enough food being available (i.e., energy and nutrients). Kwashiorkor is generally more severe and occurs later than marasmus. Both of these conditions can be cured by a dramatic increase in the amount of protein-energy foods in a child's diet.

Other nutrition-related conditions, for example, goitre, anaemia and Vitamin A deficiency, are caused by a lack of specific nutrients. More information about these conditions, their causes, and means of prevention is given on the chart on the next page

Most Common Nutritional Deficiencies

Symptoms: Enlargement of the thyroid gland, leading to noticeable swelling of the neck and occasional difficulty in breathing.

Cause: Lack of iodine in the diet. Most common in mountain areas. Prevention/cure: Increased intake of fish, dark green leafy vegetables, or use of iodised salt.

Symptoms: Pale colour of tongue and inside of lower eyelids, general weakness.

Cause: Lack of iron in the diet. Common in pregnant women and parasite-affected individuals.

Prevention/cure: Increased intake of meat, eggs and dark green, leafy vegetables. Anaemia can also be controlled by taking iron tablets.

Vitamin A deficiency

Symptoms: Night blindness. The child cannot see in the dark or half darkness. In very serious cases, Vitamin A deficiency can lead to serious eye damage and eventual blindness.

Cause: Lack of Vitamin A in the diet. The condition is made worse in cases of general malnutrition, measles or diarrhœa.

Prevention/cure: Increased intake of dark green, leafy vegetables, or orange-coloured fruits and vegetables (paw paw, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin), or fish oil. In extreme cases, Vitamin A capsules are needed.

Malnutrition is not only a factor causing sickness and death in children, it also makes it more likely they will get infections because they are weak. Infections of the stomach and intestines then make the matter worse because they cause diarrhœa and dehydration.


This cycle can be broken by good food and good hygiene together with regular visits to the local health centre.


Activity no. 3 - Building a drying rack for vegetables

Building a drying rack for vegetables

A group construction project to help ensure a supply of vegetables year-round.



Note: Check with your extension worker for suitable vegetables to use and the length of time they need for drying. Some areas may need more time than others.

· The group leader explains to the group how a simple drying rack is constructed (using the plans on the following pages).

· The leader explains the need for vegetables in the diet and how, by using the rack, vegetables can be dried and conserved to ensure a supply during the dry season.

· With the assistance of the group leader, the group then collects the materials needed for the rack.

· The group then construct the drying rack according to the plans on the following pages and prepare some dried vegetables.


So that group members will be able to:

· Understand the need for vegetables in the

· Learn one inexpensive method of ensuring constant supply of vegetables.

· Develop their capacity for participation an cooperation.



· The locally-available materials listed on the following pages.

· The plans on pages 35-37.

· Some vegetables to dry.

· Enthusiasm and group participation.

Note: If this activity is combined with a group vegetable-raising project, the dried produce could be sold as an income-generating scheme.

Some background information for the group leader

What are the effects of rapid population growth on food quantity and quality?

In many areas, the population is increasing faster than the farmers' ability to increase agricultural production. In fact, in Africa as a whole, the amount of food produced per person is actually decreasing. That is to say, there is less food per person today than there was 10 years ago.

At the family level, farmers with large families are finding it more and more difficult to produce enough food to provide enough nourishment for all. And even where they still manage to produce enough food, other problems of rapid population growth still affect nutrition levels. For example, in many areas, the rapid population growth has led to shortages in fuelwood. Most of the basic foods in the developing countries need to be cooked before they are eaten (wheat, rice, cassava, maize, most beans, etc.), but with the shortage of fuelwood, many families can only prepare one hot meal per day.

Therefore, rapid: increases in population growth can negatively affect both food quality and quantity.

To ensure that all types of food are availalble throughout the year, good preservation of food is essential. However, as much as one-third of all food produced in Africa is wasted after harvest due to: poor handling and preservation practices. The more people there are, the more important it becomes to make good use of every kernel of maize, every grain of rice, and to preserve perishable produce.

Building a vegetable drying rack

Materials required for building a vegetable drying rack

Materials required:

· 8 pieces of wood (or straight branches), each 140 cm long.

· 2 pieces of wood, 120 cm long.

· 2 pieces of wood, 80 cm long.

· 1 piece of mosquito netting or chicken wire, 125 x 85 cm.

· 2 large pieces of transparent plastic sheeting.

· Nails or screws.

· Something to hammer with.

The building process:

1) First, as in Figure 1, assemble the triangular sides of the dryer.

2) Next, as in Figure 2, attach the cross-pieces between the two sides.

3) Then, stretch and attach the mosquito netting or chicken wire to make a shelf in the middle of the dryer, as in Figure 3. This will hold the vegetables to be dried.

4) Finally, cover the frame with plastic sheeting and your dryer is ready (Figure 4).

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Using the dryer:

Using the dryer

1) Take some fresh, ripe vegetables, wash them and cut them into small strips or pieces.

2) Place the drying rack in a sunny place.

3) Remove the plastic sheeting and spread the vegetables on the mosquito netting or chicken wire. Then replace the plastic.

4) Allow the vegetables to dry for 2 4 days (drying time will differ in different regions and climates).

5) When they are dry, remove the vegetable pieces, allow them to cool and then store them in glass jars or plastic bags. It is important that these containers are tightly closed to keep out insects and moisture.

6) The dried vegetables will keep for many months. To use them, simply add them to soups or sauces when cooking.

Booklets in this Leaders Guide Series:

Population and Agriculture
Population, Employment and Income
Population and the Environment
Population and Nutrition
Population and Health
The Family and Family Size
Human Growth and Development
Responsible Parenthood
How the Population Changes
Community Involvement

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Integration of Population Education into Programmes for Rural Youth INT/88/P9