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Aquaculture and homestead gardens to improve nutrition in Cambodia

Model farms will soon be helping poor rural households improve their farming practices and nutritional status (© University of British Columbia)
Model farms will soon be helping poor rural households improve their farming practices and nutritional status
© University of British Columbia

In Cambodia's Prey Veng Province, 60 village model farms will soon be helping poor rural households improve their farming practices and nutritional status. Women farmers will be divided into two groups in which they will be taught to set up homestead gardens, one group with and the other without fish ponds. The fish pond group will raise small nutrient-rich fish for their families' consumption in the same ponds as large fish, which can be sold for income. The households will receive guidance in accessing markets for their produce and fish, along with nutrition and health education. The objectives: reduce the prevalence of anaemia and chronic undernutrition, and improve household income and knowledge of nutrition, particularly among women farmers.

The project is being run by researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada and Helen Keller International, who are evaluating optimal ways to integrate home gardens and aquaculture systems. "Homestead Food Production is an environmentally sustainable, year-round production system with diversification focused on high nutrient vegetables and fruit, as well as egg and poultry production," explains UBC Associate Professor Tim Green. "But this project is substituting fish for eggs: a more culturally acceptable and potentially cheaper alternative year round and a traditional food that is rich in iron, vitamin A, protein, and essential fatty acids."

Cambodians produces enough rice to feed themselves but mothers and young children still suffer from undernutrition, lacking diversity of foods and key nutrients including essential fatty acids, iron, and Vitamin A. Even mild to moderate deficiencies can be deadly: a third of children deaths under 5 are directly related to undernutrition. In this, the first of its kind randomized control trial of homestead food production, the impact of different intervention models on household food security, income, and nutritional status, particularly among women and children, will be established. The project will also study opportunities to scale up the most successful model for broader use throughout Cambodia and the region.

* The project is supported by IDRC and CIDA, through the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF)

Date published: July 2012

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