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Tropentag, September 14 - 16, 2022, Prague

"Can agroecological farming feed the world? Farmers' and academia's views."

Perceptions on nutritive value of foods by (agro) pastoralist mothers in northern Kenya

Jennifer Kaiser1, Patricia Kiprono2, Hussein Wario3, Brigitte Kaufmann4

1German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL), Research, Germany
2German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL), Research, Kenya
3Center for Research and Development in Drylands, Research, Kenya
4German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL), Germany


Local knowledge is a dynamic process, a mix of information and experience which builds the foundation for maternal child feeding decisions and their perceptions of child foods. In decisions about child feeding mothers are guided by different perceptions and classifications of foods. This study aimed at understanding mothers’ perceptions on child foods, their nutritive value and food characteristics that are of key importance in decision making. Most relevant child foods are identified semi-quantitatively in order to compare mothers’ perception and knowledge with actual feeding practices.
The study was conducted in Marsabit county among different types of mothers in terms of their ethnicities (Borana, Burji, Rendille), livelihood sources (pastoralists, agro-pastoralists) and locations (urban, peri-urban, rural).
Following a mixed methods approach, seven focus group discussions were conducted (1 rural, 1 peri-urban Rendille; 1 rural, 1 peri-urban Burji; 1 urban Borana, 2 rural Borana) and 36 individual food frequency interviews completed with urban Borana (10), rural Borana (13) and rural Rendille women (13). Pile sorting technique was used during the focus group discussions where mothers grouped foods according to their own perceptions and described the reasons behind.
Foods were grouped i) according to their composition, e.g. source of proteins, energy, fiber or vitamins, ii) according to their effects on the child’s body, e.g. protective foods, body building foods and strengthens bones or iii) according to its main purpose for satiety, hydration, flavor. Foods that are most frequently given to children (on average 5-7 times a week) are those classified by all groups as promoting growth and giving strength, e.g. cow’s milk, potato, porridge. Among Rendille high satiety foods were one group which was frequently given, e.g. beans, maize whereas rural and urban Borana reported a high frequency for foods classified by mothers as protective foods, e.g. mango.
The mothers’ food classifications reveal local patterns with similarities and differences between geographic location, livelihood sources and ethnicity. Perceptions on nutritive value of food and their benefits to children are guiding mothers in their child feeding practices. Identifying these perceptions is crucial in developing social behaviour change materials and designing of relevant interventions.

Keywords: Agro-pastoralists, child feeding, food classification, food frequency, local knowledge, perceptions

Contact Address: Jennifer Kaiser, German Institute for Tropical and Subtropical Agriculture (DITSL), Research, Brommerstraße 15, 70563 Stuttgart, Germany, e-mail: jennifer.kaiser@stud.uni-goettingen.de

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