Gardens for Health International

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Gardens for Health International

Boston, United StatesRwanda
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

We partner with health centers in Rwanda to bring agriculture into the clinical treatment of malnutrition to ensure that, in addition to emergency interventions, families get the seeds, livestock, education and support they need to feed their children and keep them healthy over the long term.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Malnutrition is an underlying cause of the deaths of 2.3 million children each year, and it contributes to a cycle of poor health and poverty for millions more. When these children reach working age, malnutrition could cost the global economy as much as 125 billion dollars. In Rwanda, the situation is critical; almost half of all children under five in Rwanda suffer from chronic malnutrition. In order to address this crisis, Gardens for Health operates at the nexus of agriculture and health. We believe that in order for families to break the cycle of poverty and poor health that stems from malnutrition, we need to address its root causes by empowering families to grow nutritious food and giving them the knowledge to keep their children healthy.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our home garden package includes three seasons of local indigenous seed and small livestock. It is designed to promote both household dietary diversity and biodiversity. Our agriculture team works to blend innovations in sustainable agriculture with time-tested local farming practices to help every family make the most of the land and resources available to them. As a result, we are able to bring cutting-edge agricultural solutions to bear on some of the most persistent challenges farmers we work with face, such as poor soil quality and erosion, while improving health outcomes for farming families. We also provide comprehensive health and nutrition education to every family in our program. Our peer-led program was developed with and for the mothers we serve. It addresses the complex factors that contribute to malnutrition, from hygiene to mental health. By investing in both the agricultural capacity and health knowledge of mothers, we arm them to win the fight against malnutrition.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Dative Mukarumani’s story is illustrative of the impact that our program is having in the lives of hundreds of families in Rwanda. Dative enrolled in our program when her three year-old son, Jean Claude, was diagnosed with malnutrition. “When I first joined GHI, I did not know about growing vegetables. I did not know that it was important for my family to eat them,” Dative said. “Now I grow amaranth, cabbage, carrots, green peppers, and orange sweet potatoes and my family is getting healthy.” In four months, Jean Claude has gained four kilograms, and is now at a healthy weight. Dative says that it is not just Jean Claude that benefited from the GHI program, however. She reports that her whole family is healthier and happier. Dative credits the community that develops among mothers in our program with empowering her to tackle the challenge of malnutrition head on.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

To date, we have worked with over 800 families at our four partner health centers, reaching approximately 4,000 children. One year after enrolling in our program, 71% of children initially diagnosed with malnutrition are at a healthy weight-for-age. Our data on Household Dietary Diversity Scores, a validated proxy indicator for nutritional status, suggests that families are consuming more nutritious food as a result of our program. One year after enrollment, 88% of families report that their consumption has increased to four or more different types of food each day, much of which grew in their own gardens. We have developed a replicable and scalable model with an effective entry point: malnourished children at the point of care. We enroll 40 women per season at each partner health center, helping 120 families per health per year to break the cycle of malnutrition and reaching approximately 600 children annually at each partner site.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We envision rural health systems in sub-Saharan Africa that equip their patients with the tools to maintain health improvements beyond short-term aid. To this end, we are committed to working with each partner health center as they gradually transition to full local ownership of the program. As we expand, we expect that our organizational and programmatic growth will be funded through grants, individual donors, and CSR partnerships.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While emergency food aid saves lives, alone it cannot solve the long-term nutritional challenges that families face. There is widespread recognition of the role that kitchen gardens can, and should, play in alleviating malnutrition. However, there has been little quantifiable study of how these gardens can have the greatest impact on improving food and nutrient security at the household level. Instead, the majority of agriculture initiatives targeting smallholder farmers tend to focus on the income generating potential of improved crop yields. In contrast, our program endeavors to harness the power of nutrition-intensive agriculture to improve the health of smallholder farmers and their children by improving the household production and consumption of nutritious food.

Founding Story

GHI was founded in 2008 by then college students Emma Clippinger, Emily Morrell, and Julie Carney, to provide lasting agricultural solutions to pressing public health problems in Rwanda. In response to Rwanda’s 44% childhood malnutrition rate and the political will to tackle this significant public health challenge, GHI has evolved its programming to focus on the alleviation of childhood malnutrition. In August 2010, GHI launched its core effort: the health center program. This program works in close collaboration with rural health centers and the Rwandan Ministry of Health to reduce Rwanda’s childhood malnutrition rate through a holistic education and community based approach and a groundbreaking home garden model.
About You
Gardens for Health International
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Gardens for Health International

Organization Country

, MA, Boston, Suffolk County

Country where this project is creating social impact
Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

2012 Ashoka Fellowship- Julie Carney (founder)
2010 Ashoka Nutrition Innovation Award
2009 Echoing Green Fellowship- Julie Carney and Emma Clippinger (founders)
2009 Dell Social Innovation Competition (Grand Prize)
2009 JPMorgan Give-It-Away Competition (Grand Prize)
2008 JPMorgan Good Venture Competition (Grand Prize),
2008 Ashoka/Staples Youth Entrepreneur Competition (Grand Prize),
2008 Brown Business Plan Competition (Grand Prize)

Nutrients For All
Where do you ensure the availability of nutrients?

Healthy environments., Nutrient-rich farming, Full nourishment foods, Human wellness and vitality.

If you had greater capacity, which additional sectors would you like your solution to target - either through expansion, partnership, or thought exchange?

Healthy environments, Nutrient-rich farming, Full nourishment foods, Human wellness and vitality.

How specifically would this added capacity help you improve the quality, efficiency, or sustainability of your existing product or service?

The farming techniques and plants in Rwanda are vast. With added capacity on our research farm we would be able to more effectively study the potential impacts of new techniques and varietal/species options before distributing them to the communities we work with. While there is a great deal of literature available on agroforestry and perenniation, for example, there is little directly relevant to our beneficiaries, scale and region. On our farm we will experiment with new techniques, evaluate different varieties and species for their impact and quantify the expected benefits.


What if doctors could prescribe seeds? We believe that we need to push the boundaries of health care beyond the clinic walls to ensure that we are tackling malnutrition at its roots.