Reflections on the InnoFoodAfrica Household Survey
by Rodgers Omondi, Nutritionist and one of the enumerators in InnoFoodAfrica, Kenyatta University | Dec 15 2021
Poor diets are a major cause of malnutrition throughout the life cycle in children, from pregnancy to puberty. Numerous factors influence children’s diets, including globalization, urbanization and inequality. Environmental catastrophes, epidemics, economic status and humanitarian emergencies can make it difficult for families to obtain healthy, safe, and inexpensive food. Kenya is one of the countries with poor food consumption patterns. And due to this factor, InnoFoodAfrica in partnership with Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, Chuka University and University of Helsinki came up with the food consumption survey in Kenya which targeted the people with various economic backgrounds, and with the following core aims;
- To identify undernutrition, overweight and obesity drivers and the possible solutions.
- To guide in developing locally feasible food-based dietary guidelines and nutrition recommendations.
- To formulate an implementation plan in applying the recommendations.
WHAT IS A FOOD CONSUMPTION SURVEY?
A food consumption survey is a survey designed to gather information on how much and what kinds of food people eat. A comprehensive understanding of people’s dietary intake, nutritional status and food security necessitates a food consumption survey. Policymakers, technical staff, researchers in government ministries, training and research institutions, the mass media, and other private sector organizations can use the information collected by food consumption surveys in numerous policy and program areas.
TRAINING FOR THE DATA COLLECTION
In the month of September, University of Helsinki together with Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International organized a 1.5-week training and capacity building exercise for the data collection. The project coordinators (Dr. Noora Kanerva, Prof Mikael Fogelholm and Mrs. Wangari Kiragu had recruited six field assistants (Me: Rodgers Omondi, George Odia, Brenda Saina, Sharlette Awuor, Sylvia Muzinsi, and Moses Wanjala). The researchers from University of Helsinki had worked with and trained the same team before. This time, in addition to basic background questionnaires, body measures and dietary interviews a new part of the training was how the dietary interviews were conducted by using a digital mobile data collection platform, Open Data Kit (ODK). The platform allows for real time questionnaire data collection using smart phones, which are synchronized to Kenyan food composition tables and a Food Atlas designed for portion size estimation. Another new learning from this training was taking body measurements from small children, namely height using a length board, weight using a mother-child function and mid-upper-arm circumference.
FINDING THE HOUSEHOLDS
In Nairobi, a total of 200 households were randomly selected and mapped with the help of Kahawa West Health Center health officer (Mr. Gitonga) and the community health volunteers (CHVs) in each of the three research areas: Kahawa, Kahawa West, and Zimmerman. From each area, three villages were randomly selected for the mapping. In the mapping exercise, CHVs went through rich suburbs (Tanners and Maziwa) and middle-income neighborhoods (Pickens and Kahawa West Estate) before reaching the low-income neighborhoods in the areas (Njathaini and Soweto). Households with children between the ages of 6 and 23 months were the main targets of the survey. The CHVs introduced the InnoFoodAfrica Household Food Survey and its goals during the mapping exercise and sought preliminary willingness to participate in the survey. For those households which were interested in participating, the CHVs took their contact information and asked for a suitable time when the mother and the child would be available for the data collection.
FIELD DATA COLLECTION
Data collection exercise kicked off in all the mapped study areas of Kahawa West and Zimmerman areas. The three teams, which each consisted of two enumerators and a CHV had called the households prior to book appointments and arrived at the specific households at the scheduled time to conduct the survey. Accessibility to the villages was smooth thanks to the sizable bus that would carry everyone together with the study equipment. The field assistants would issue the mothers with a consent form before starting the interview. This was to embrace ethics when seeking permission from the participants and explain the study objectives to the households. The whole survey involved interviewing the respondents in order to get the background information of the household and conducting the 24-hour dietary recalls for both the mothers and the children. Body measurements were conducted including weight, height and mid-upper arm circumference for both the mother and the children. After each data collection day, the enumerators sent the electronic forms to the server from where the researchers were able to pick them up and check data to correct any mistakes and clarify uncertainties with the enumerators.
On the whole, the InnofoodAfrica Food Consumption Survey was a worthy experience that provided myself with numerous chances to learn and improve on our research skills. My team perfectly managed to access the target respondents who provided us with valuable information and data. I feel that the data collection was a success based on the following reasons: First, our communications within the team worked effectively. Second, the CHVs engaged with us, and I think they actually were pivotal to the success of the survey because they helped us access of the study area as well as the households. Third, we managed to plan our weekly and daily activities well in regarding the household visits. Lastly, we had an excellent transportation service to and from the study site. This really eased the movements and made it possible for us as research assistants to deliver.
However, I feel it is important to mention that some of the sampled households were quite a distance apart and therefore our teams wasted some valuable time moving from one household to another by foot. We also faced difficulty accessing the households of the middle- and high-income earners. I think this was because the country was still experiencing COVID-19 pandemic, and these families were fairly alert of their health. In contrast, my experience was that low-income earners were slightly welcoming and enthusiastic about the what we were doing. I think we perfectly followed the national guidelines on COVID-19 protocol and ensured that all the participants were masked before interviews, sanitized all the equipment before and after use.