The role of drought tolerant food crops in food and Nutrition security status among low income households in Kasikeu Division, Makueni District-Kenya

Makueni district experiences chronic food insecurity and is ranked the highest in food poverty incidences (71%). Over the past five years, various stakeholders have put some efforts to improve household food security by promoting the growing and utilization of drought tolerant food crops in the district. The purpose of this study was to establish whether growing and utilisation of drought tolerant food crops enhances food and nutrition security in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands. A descriptive cross-sectional study was carried out among low -income households in Kasikeu division, Makueni district in August and September 2004. The study focused on growing and utilization of cowpeas, pigeon peas, cassava, millets and sorghum because they were the major drought tolerant food crops grown in the area. Two hundred and sixty (260) low-income households were randomly selected and interviewed. A pre-tested structured questionnaire was used to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. Nutritional status of children aged 6 to 59 months was determined to serve as an outcome indicator of household food security. Qualitative information on growing and utilization of drought tolerant food crops was obtained through focus group discussions. Data on household food consumption was collected using a three-day food list recall method and food frequency questionnaire. Household dietary energy and protein intakes were calculated and compared to the recommended intake per consumer unit. XIV The study established that 96.2% of the households were food insecure as they did not have adequate food through the year. Nevertheless, the three-day food record showed that 75.8% and 87.2% households met their Daily Recommended Allowance for energy and protein respectively. Though each household grew at least a few of the drought tolerant food crops, the crops did not playa significant role in the household food and nutrition security as they contributed only 8.5% and 21.7% of the caloric and protein intake respectively. However only protein adequacy was positively influenced by amount of calories from drought tolerant food crops among other factors. The level of malnutrition was high among the children less than five years of age. Stunting was at 26%, underweight 15.1% and wasting 7.5%. Production and consumption of drought tolerant food crops did not show any significant relationship with the nutritional status of the children. The study c onc1uded that drought tolerant food crops have not played am ajor role in food and nutrition security in the study area mainly due to low production and utilization. The over dependence on maize than on other crops still remain a challenge in the promotion of drought tolerant food crops. It is therefore recommended that the demand for these crops bee reated and increased in 0 rder to enhance their production. Further research should therefore focus on establishing factors leading to poor adoption, low production and consumption of the drought tolerant crops as well as how to increase utilization of the crops among the poor communities.