Meeting the food needs of Africa’s growing population will require innovative and appropriate technologies whose effectiveness needs to be assessed. Researchers from the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and colleagues evaluated the impact of Solar Market Gardens (SMGs) on crops production diversity and dietary diversity in the Kalal´e district of Northern Benin. The study was published in the journal Food and Nutrition.
In 2007, SMGs were installed in two villages for women’s agricultural groups as a strategy for enhancing food and nutrition security. Data were collected through interviews at installation and one year later from all women’s group households (30–35 women/group) and from a random representative sample of 30 households in each village, for both treatment and matched-pair comparison villages.
Comparison of baseline and endline data indicated increases in the variety of fruits and vegetables produced and consumed by SMG women’s groups compared to other groups. The proportion of SMG women’s group households engaged in vegetable and fruit production significantly increased by 26 percent and 55 percent, respectively (P < .05). After controlling for baseline values, SMG women’s groups were three times more likely to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption compared with comparison non-women’s groups (P < .05). In addition, the percentage change in corn, sorghum, beans, oil, rice and fish purchased was significantly greater in the SMG women’s groups compared to other groups. At endline, 57 percent of the women used their additional income on food, 54 percent on health care, and 25 percent on education.
Study findings show Solar Market Gardens have the potential to improve household nutritional status through direct consumption and increased income to make economic decisions.