Health Gardens: A nutrition-centred approach

Case Studies
Agriculture, Food Security, Nutrition
ACF-Spain (ACF International)
Publication Dates:
October, 2013
Content Formats:

This is one of 50 Harvesting Nutrition project case studies. Harvesting Nutrition was a contest held in 2012 and 2013 that showcased active projects working to improve the impact of agriculture and/or food security on nutrition outcomes. Co-sponsors were SecureNutrition, Save the Children UK, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Learn More.

Project Description:

This innovative and sustainable approach to fight malnutrition endows mothers with necessary basic knowledge to improve the nutritional situation of their families and ACF provides the necessary means to put into practice those “lessons learnt” through nutritional education and the improvement of food diversity.


This approach is based on:

  1. The development of vegetable gardens (production of fruits and vegetables) both for the family consumption and for the generation of income by sale on markets;
  2. The promotion of essential nutrition practices through education and sensitization sessions (breastfeeding, hygiene, food and nutrition sensitization);
  3. Culinary demonstrations of balanced recipes based on the availability of the garden’s products and other local food crops ordinarily used.

Impact of project:

​After three years of implementation in Mali, the Health Gardens programme has supported 1,405 women organized in 36 associations, covering 36 villages and hamlets (a garden for each association and per village or hamlet). 

The programme assessment recorded very positive results in food practices of households, specifically:

1.       A serious improvement of food diversity for the whole population in the area of the project’s intervention;

2.       A very encouraging improvement of the children’s nutritional situation in the area of intervention;

3.       A significant improvement of the knowledge of malnutrition causes;

4.       A clear increase of the average duration of market gardening productions;

5.       The increase of the production of market gardening crops;

6.       A substantial improvement on women economic and social empowerment.

Why this project is a Good Practice example:

​The implementation strategy of the Health Gardens aiming to work specifically with women is relevant because of their role within the households and particularly for the feeding and care of children. This strategy is feasible in terms of a reproducible strategy.  However, the workload of women must be taken into account, as it may sometimes prevent them from caring for children, which is part of the causes of malnutrition.  Setting-up some community-based structure for taking care of children (e.g. kindergarden) while mother can work on the health gardens are a good way to reduce the burden on mothers while ensuring care for children.

Impact Evaluation:

Impact evaluation completed

Lessons Learned:

  • This type of program should consider integrating women with malnourished children in the nutritional rehabilitation centres of the Health Gardens or creating a Health Garden within the nutritional centre.
  • The dissemination of messages, be it within nutrition education or within farming techniques and technology, must be done gradually, taking into account the beneficiaries’ level of knowledge and understanding.
  • Drying of production in the sun does not preserve the quality and nutritional value of products and ensure sufficient food hygiene. Sensitization on hygiene should better cover hygiene aspects in food preparation, drying and products processing / post processing.
  • Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Transformation (PHAST) sensitization should be extended to the entire area given the importance of safe water and hygiene practices in nutrition causalities.
  • The implementation of a Health Garden requires a sustained presence of technical support personnel and nutrition education.


Funders: Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID), DFID, DevCO

Primary Contact: Julien Jacob, Senior Food Security and Livelihoods Advisor

Country: Mali

Project Dates: June 2007 to July 2010

Interventions: Assess the context at the local level, Target the vulnerable and improve equity, Empower women, Facilitate production diversification, Improve processing, storage and preservation, Incorporate nutrition promotion and education,

Target Population: Rural households, Women farmers, Urban households,

Project Stage: Ongoing activities

Geographic Coverage: Village/Municipality