The social justice mission of Gardens for Health International is to fight against chronic malnutrition in Rwanda with good nutrition and agriculture practices. The organization was founded in 2007, and by 2010 was in four different health centers in the district of Gasabo. In 2018, GHI operates in 19 different health centers across the country. Their health center program teaches 50 families in the community about what a balanced meal looks like, and what the best foods to grow are for good nutrition.
I mention these facts because they emphasize the impressive progress Gardens for Health has made since their founding. Through the innovation of a variety of new programs, GHI is able to interact with a number of new community actors. In the last couple of years, they have pioneered an antenatal care program where they teach pregnant mothers how to care for their unborn child. The program has been incredibly successful so far, and is being expanded to even more districts in the coming season. Additionally, GHI just had their first Training of Trainers Program (ToT) where they brought Rwandans from across the country to the farm to learn about the GHI program model in order to teach more communities about our version of health education. Although the first annual ToT was just completed, it was so successful, preparations are already being made for the ToT training this coming December.
Another amazing thing I have learned from the GHI programs is that, they are teaching all of their participants to pass on all of the knowledge they are receiving to members of the community who were unable to participate in GHI trainings. This is one of the ways the reach and impact of GHI reaches beyond the health centers the work in.
In addition to these major new changes to the GHI programs, there are many small steps the organization takes in order to maintain their mission effectively. One of the things I admire about the GHI office is its self-sufficiency. The office is on a big farm that serves three purposes. Firstly, the crops grown on the farm provide the seeds for the home garden package given to all the families who complete the health center program. Additionally, all the food in our daily farm lunches is produced on the farm. Lastly, the harvested crops that are left over are sold in local markets, and the proceeds are reinvested back into maintaining the farm. These practices play into why I believe Gardens for Health is such a credible organization. They practice their teachings in full force on a daily basis, encouraging everyone involved in GHI to live up to their mission.
GHI also composts, raises goats, and feeds other members of the local community at the farm lunches. By establishing new programs and implementing their sustainable farm practices at the office, fighting malnutrition is engrained in the core structure of the organization. For these reasons I am so proud to work for an organization like Gardens for Health International this summer.
– Eli Wasserman ’20