Hesperian Health Guides

Ways to Work toward Better Nutrition

There are many different ways to approach the problem of poor nutrition, because many different things help cause the problem. You and your community must consider the possible actions you might take and decide which are most likely to work.

Here are a few examples of ways to improve nutrition. These suggestions can help you grow more food or different kinds of food, or store it better so the food does not spoil. Some of these examples bring quick results. Others work over a longer time.

Some ways people can improve their nutrition
Family gardens
a woman taking care of plants on the balcony of an apartment building
people working in a small garden near some houses
people working in a large garden next to apartment buildings
Rotation of crops
Every other planting season, plant a crop that returns strength to the soil—like beans, peas, lentils, alfalfa, peanuts, or some other plant with seeds in pods (legumes or pulses).
WWHND10 Ch11 Page 176-4.png WWHND10 Ch11 Page 176-5.png
This year maize Next year beans
Try to grow a variety of foods. That way, even if one crop fails there will still be something to eat.
Irrigation a small canal carrying water from a river to a garden Contour ditches
prevent the soil
from washing
ditches on the side of a hill between rows of crops
Food Cooperatives
The community can buy large
amounts of food at lower prices.
a man and woman filling a small bag from a large bag of beans
Fish breeding
a woman using a fishing pole to catch a fish in a pond
a woman adding food scraps to a fenced compost area
Natural fertilizers
Compost pile

a storage building raised on posts with metal sleeves

Better food storage
Metal sleeves keep out rats.

Trying a new idea

Do not be discouraged if an experiment does not work. Perhaps you can try again with certain changes. You can learn as much from your failures as from your successes.

Not all the suggestions in this chapter are likely to work in your area. Perhaps some will work if they are changed for your particular community and the resources at hand. Often you can only know whether something will work or not by trying it—that is, by experiment.

When you try out a new idea, always start small. If you start small and the experiment fails, or something has to be done differently, you will not lose much. If it works, people will see that it works and can begin to use it in a bigger way.

a woman working in a small garden with four different rows of plants

Here is an example of experimenting with a new idea:
You learn that a certain kind of bean, such as soya, is an excellent body-building food. But will it grow in your area? And if it grows, will people eat it?

Start by planting a small patch—or 2 or 3 small patches under different kinds of conditions (for example, with different kinds of soil or using different amounts of water). If the beans do well, try cooking them in various ways, and see if people will eat them. If so, try planting more beans using the conditions in which they grew best.

You can also try out even more conditions (for example, adding fertilizer or using different kinds of seed) in more small patches to see if you can get an even better crop. To best understand what helps and what does not, try to change only one condition at a time and keep the rest the same.

Other ideas to experiment with

two cacao trees growing in the shade of two breadfruit trees
By planting breadfruit and cacao together, this family can earn some money and grow more food for themselves with the same amount of land.
  • To increase the amount of food a piece of land will produce, try planting different kinds of crops together. For example, plants that grow along the ground can be mixed with plants that grow tall. Fruit trees can be planted above both. Or plants that take a shorter time to grow can be mixed with those that take a longer time. Then the first crop can be harvested before the second crop gets too large.
  • If you must plant cash crops (non-food crops that you sell), try planting food crops together with the cash crops. For example, plant nut or fruit trees to shade coffee. Or plant cassava with cotton.
  • Try to find nutritious plants that grow well in local conditions, so that you will need less water and fertilizer for good results.

See Hesperian’s book A Community Guide to Environmental Health for more information on:

  • storing food safely.
  • sustainable farming in both rural and urban communities.
  • managing pests and plant diseases.
  • fish farming.
  • raising animals.
  • improving local food security.

This page was updated:23 Oct 2019