Characteristics of effective nutrition-agricultural extension interventions: Lessons from civil society extension organizations in Uganda
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Conventional agricultural extension interventions have focused on production objectives with limited attention on nutrition. Recently, there has been a new thrust by the international and regional organizations as well as national governments to adopt extension interventions that engage farmers to improve their dietary practices and achieve nutrition outcomes. However, little has been documented on how these extension interventions can effectively facilitate the desired changes. The objective of the study was to identify characteristics of extension interventions that facilitate changes in farmers’ dietary practices. The study was conducted in Kihihi and Nyamirama subcounties of Kanungu District in South-western, Uganda. These communities are served by two civil society extension organizations; Africa2000Network (A2N) and Community Connector (CC). Nine in-depth Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with 98 farmers were conducted to collect qualitative data about the interventions and their effect on farmers’ dietary practices. Two FGDs were conducted with extension workers to complement the farmers’ opinions. Results show that interventions that involve both men and women for trainings facilitated positive changes in dietary practices. Messages that go beyond food production and intake to include hygiene fostered positive change in the dietary practices. Furthermore, methods that were considered effective engaged farmers beyond formal training settings and included entertainment by incorporating drama, songs, and radio talk shows during their leisure time. Drama was pointed out as the most effective method. Conversely, individual methods mainly farmer-to-farmer visits and individual-learning through reading nutrition books were not well rated by farmers. Thus, the extension interventions that mix a variety of methods, more especially those that target men and women; reach farmers during their leisure time; train farmers on food production, food in-take, household hygiene and savings; conduct activities in accessible venues; and partner with universities to incorporate research findings to inform their design; facilitate positive changes in farmers’ dietary practices.