Contribution of cassava to nutrition of children 2-5 years and their primary care givers in coastal Kenya
Malnutrition remains a major threat to child survival, growth and development in Kenya. To mitigate this threat, cassava, a crop that was initially seen as a poor man’s crop, has received intensive promotion in East Africa, Kenya included. The current study was part of a larger intervention project known as the Eastern Africa Agricultural Productivity Project(EAAPP) which together with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), was undertaken to promote research in cassava as well as ensure increased production and utilization of cassava in different parts of Kenya, particularly Western and Coastal regions. The main objective of this study was to establish the contribution of cassava to nutrition of children 2-5 years and their primary care givers in coastal Kenya. The study was a cross-sectional survey carried out in Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale Counties. Multi-stage sampling was used, where 20 villages were selected in the region, in which a total of 220 households were randomly selected. Data was collected on household demographic characteristics, cassava production and consumption, dietary diversity of 2-5 years old children, their morbidity experiences and anthropometric measurements which included weight, height and the mid upper arm circumference (MUAC) were taken and the age of each child recorded. Eight samples from two cassava varieties were collected from KALRO Mtwapa for laboratory analysis to determine the effects of boiling on cyanide and protein content. A semi-structured questionnaire, food frequency questionnaire and dietary diversity questionnaire were the main tools used to collect the data. Results were analyzed using the statistical package for social scientists (SPSS), Nutri-survey and ENA for SMART softwares. Respondents for this study were the primary care givers of the children, mostly mothers. The results showed that households in Coastal Kenya had a mean of 5 people, with a sex distribution of 45% males and 55% females. Sixty three per cent of the households were farming households, out of which 88% produced cassava in addition to other crops. About 98% of the households consume cassava, most preferred variety being Kibanda Meno by 54% of the households. Primary care-givers obtained up to 28% of their daily energy from cassava every consumption time, while children obtained approximately 22% of their daily energy requirements from cassava every consumption time. Boiling resulted in losses of protein and cyanide in the two varieties of cassava analyzed. Significant (p<0.05) losses were noted in protein content of Kibanda Meno roots and leaves. The mean dietary diversity score of the children was found to be 5.2 with a standard deviation of 1.45. This was above the expected dietary mean score of 4. Food consumption patterns indicated that the children consumed various protein rich foods more than 3 times in a week, which, together with appropriate dietary diversification, serves as a positive step towards preventing cases of protein energy malnutrition (PEM). Nutritional status of the children showed that more than 90% of the children had normal weight for age and weight for height. However, stunting levels, which indicate chronic malnutrition, showed that 22% of the children were moderately stunted, while 7% were severely stunted, indicating prolonged periods of food shortage. About 94% of the children had received all the necessary immunizations, although more than 50% of the children were found to have been sick two weeks prior to the survey. It can be concluded that cassava serves as a good source of energy for children and primary care givers in Coastal Kenya. Majority of the children had normal levels for the three indicators of malnutrition assessed. However, due to the low nutrient content of cassava, adequate dietary diversification is required in order to meet dietary requirements and prevent deficiencies.