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Aid for Africa Scholar Helps Improve Nutrition in Northern Tanzania

Aid for Africa Scholar Katrina Brink helped design a project to improve the nutrition of Tanzanian women and infant children.

As the summer draws to a close, Katrina Brink, the first Aid for Africa Scholar supported through the Aid for Africa Endowment for Food and Sustainable Agriculture at the Friedman School at Tufts University, is wrapping up her work to improve nutrition in northern Tanzania though gardening and poultry farming. Brink, a master’s student at the Friedman School, spent three months working with Helen Keller International (HKI) in Mwanza, Tanzania, near Lake Victoria. HKI is the oldest international organization devoted to preventing blindness and reducing malnutrition in the world. 

Brink worked with HKI, Tanzanian agricultural extension workers, and community volunteers on a project to improve nutrition both for women of child bearing age and children under two.  While agricultural extension officers explained how to create and maintain gardens and raise chickens to the participants, HKI provided the women and families in the project with nutrition education.  “My role was to come up with a plan to monitor and evaluate the project to help determine if it is achieving its goals,” Brink said. 

Brink explained that in the dozen villages that are part of the project, the usual diet mainly of maize and cassava does not include enough of the nutrients found in vitamin-rich vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet potatoes.  The project will also help women improve their incomes through poultry farming, which will allow mothers to purchase food with more nutritional value for their children. “There is a high level of malnutrition and basic nutrition knowledge is lacking,” she said. “The program is trying to address the malnutrition issue from several angles and come up with sustainable solutions that will be able to continue on after the program ends.”  

Research on whether development projects meet their goals is essential if projects are to be improved and replicated in other areas.  The final evaluation of the project will occur in the summer of 2014 if all goes as scheduled, according to Brink.  “Through the use of this plan, they [HKI] hope to identify challenges in the field and improve upon implementation,” she said.

Brink will begin the final year of her master’s degree in the agriculture, food, and environment program at the Friedman School in September.

“I am so grateful to the Aid for Africa Endowment for providing me the opportunity to go to Tanzania,” she said. “For years I have wanted to contribute to an agricultural development project in a developing country.  Aid for Africa made it possible for me to go and do this work. 

 I have a deep appreciation for the beauty of the people I met–their vibrant clothing, big smiles, friendly greetings, and thank yous for the gardens.”