A student at the University of Pretoria’s Institute for Food Nutrition and Wellbeing (IFNuW) has found a solution to combat malnutrition in South Africa’s poor communities.
Currently, 54% of South Africans live below the poverty line and because most cannot afford a diversified range of food, their diets of mostly maize and bread cannot provide adequate nutrition.
Many communities turn to subsistence agriculture to bridge this nutritional gap, but in the marginal farming areas that make up large parts of rural South Africa, they struggle to grow enough food to meet their nutritional requirements.
Corne van der Merwe has developed a world-first smartphone app to communicate recommendations on how communities can grow food that addresses their nutritional needs.
To develop the Grow Smart app, van der Merwe and IFNuW researched which crops are grown in four of South Africa’s poorest communities, and combined that data with food composition data to understand the nutritional value of different crops.
The project initially planned to make its findings available in print only, but according to research lead, Professor Sheryl Hendriks, the team discovered how tech savvy the young people employed as survey enumerators in these communities are.
“We realised there was an opportunity to make the recommendations available through this technology, putting the recommendations into the hands of farmers and young people,” Hendriks said
“Despite the rural location, millennials can help us empower their elders to grow nutritional crops to supplement their diet,” she added.
“The findings of the study and the recommendations can empower communities in taking responsibility for their nutrition by providing them with locally-relevant information while helping government and NGOs design more appropriate agriculture-based interventions,” Hendricks concluded.