Peer to Peer Agricultural Learning and Social Development for Nutrition and Food Security

Case Studies
Agriculture, Food Security, Nutrition, Social Protection
​Send a Cow Western Region Kenya
Publication Dates:
December, 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: ​

The goal of the project was to enable farm families to attain food security, appropriate nutrition and sustainable livelihoods through an innovative community-led training programme (peer to peer trainers). In order to achieve this, the programme’s main objectives were:

To build the capacity of farmers and their families in a number of areas including sustainable agriculture techniques, improved animal management, gender and social development, human nutrition and leadership. Emphasis was put on permanently embedding knowledge in the communities by developing peer to peer trainers – excelling project farmers who were trained and equipped to teach and support people from their community so they, and future generations, have access to expert advice.

To improve the nutrition of families so that women and children – who are most vulnerable to hunger - can achieve their full potential. Specifically, the project aimed to increase crop yields through the application of composted manure and improve dietary diversity by introducing farmers to techniques such as vegetable gardening and new varieties of vegetables, fruit and crops. The project also aimed to increase knowledge of nutrition and how to prepare food for a balanced diet.

To unleash the economic potential of farmers to increase farm production from livestock, crops, fruit trees and vegetables, and improve post-harvest storage to reduce losses, so they have surplus to sell for market-led income generation and set up small businesses that last.  

Impact of project: ​

The project halved the number of inadequate food provision months farm families experience from six to three, so they have sufficient food for 3 more months of the year, whilst doubling the food types consumed so that their intake of protein, fruits and vegetables greatly increased.  These changes contributed to significantly improved nutrition and health of women and children.

Food security increased thanks to a 2-5 fold rise in staple crop production, improved post-harvest storage and increased diversification of farm and non-farm income generation. While before the project, 9/10 families were living below the poverty line, 2/3 now earn >$5 USD each day and average income has risen from $1 USD to $6 USD per day.

The project has contributed to the empowerment of women as they have greater decision-making power; 8/10 women has full decision-making power over small expenses and 7/10 fully participated in decisions on major items.

The project increased women’s workloads when they were already bearing the major burden of household chores because sustainable agriculture and caring for livestock is hard work. However women reported being happy with this as they are seeing huge benefits, whereas before they worked hard and gained little. Gender awareness has also promoted greater sharing of workloads by men and family members. People with HIV/AIDS require additional assistance with agriculture and receive support from peer to peer farmers.  One appropriate adaptation was a lazy man vegetable garden, smaller (1m square) and more easily tended by people weak from disease. 

Why this project is a Good Practice example: ​

This project is a great example of the nutritional impact of agriculture, because it made effective use of local people and resources and built the capacity of farmers, as well as making outstanding changes in nutrition and income.  It gave farmers the ability to make decisions and the power of choice over what to grow, what to eat and how much to sell so the solution to their problems lies in their hands. It developed peer to peer trainer experts who live and work within the project locality and will remain as a community resource long after the project ends.

The project successfully translated agricultural training for farmers into increased yields and improved nutrition for the whole family so they now have more to eat and a diverse diet that includes starch, vitamin A rich vegetables, fruit, protein (milk, eggs, meat or fish), pulses and nuts. Families now understand what a balanced diet is and have the skills to prepare tasty, nutritious food.

Women have been empowered to have more confidence and a say in decision making so they are better equipped to provide nutrition, clothing, housing and schooling for their children.

The project promoted technologies that are climate-smart so natural resources (soil, water, trees, livestock) are conserved and regenerated and CO2 is captured. Farmers have become environmental stewards caring for their land so it can provide for them. Above all, farmers have worked hard and made the changes for themselves, encouraging self-reliance and hope for the future. 

Impact Evaluation:

Impact evaluation completed

Lessons Learned: ​

We learned that in order to bring about changes in nutrition for entire families, there needs to be buy-in from all farmers and family members regarding new technologies and a change in mind-set. When addressing gender changes, men needed to be involved as well as women in order to make changes in gender relations cohesive and sustainable.

We also learned that the way training is carried out is key to ensuring high adoption rates. Farmers can be risk-averse and slow to implement new techniques, but taking them on exchange visits to other farmers who have already benefited, showed them how others have achieved food and livelihood security for their families from a small plot of land. This encouraged them to apply the knowledge and skills on their own farm.

In the same way, because farmers relate best to peers whose situation is comparable to theirs, training by peer to peer trainers was most effective and readily adopted. Because they stay in the locality, farmers could call on them for advice and support.  However, peer to peer trainers can only teach what they know themselves and so any knowledge gaps they had were reflected across the project.

The project encouraged local ownership and built farmer capacity which resulted in increased confidence and resilience. They now have all they need to maintain the gains accumulated during the project and to continue their development beyond it

Funders: Send a Cow UK

Primary Contact: Martin Vieira, Conducted impact measurement research, Send a Cow

Country: Kenya

Project Dates: January 2010 to December 2012

Interventions: Collaborate and coordinate with other sectors, Target the vulnerable and improve equity,

Target Population: Women, Rural households, Farmers,

Project Stage: Completed

Geographic Coverage: Regional