Agriculture as a fundamental nexus between nutrition and health

By Mary Karigu (Manager, Gender and Youth)

Did you know that agriculture have the potential to unlock health problems related to poor nutrition and ‘unhealthy’ food?

The current human population is characterized by illness and diseases some of which are attributed to lifestyle.  Diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, heart problems are now very common among members of our society. It is paramount to note that nutrition is an important part of a person’s lifestyle. Agriculture and nutrition share a common entry point which is “food” where food is a key output of agricultural activities, and, in turn, is a key input into good nutrition.

Traditional societies and countries such as India have realized the ‘magic’ in food for therapeutic purposes to both heal and prevent diseases. Plants, in particular that produce brightly colored fruits, edible roots and other parts such as leaves contain different phytochemicals that have medicinal value. Spices such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, cumin seed, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, thyme, peppermint, vanilla have medicinal phytochemicals that research have demonstrated have the ability to cure and prevent diseases when taken regularly as part of food.


Some researchers and doctors particularly in India have demonstrated that spices and herbs contain phytochemicals such as curcumin (tumeric), gingerol (ginger), lycopene (tomatoes), allicin (garlic) which are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals that control and cure different diseases.

It is thus obvious that agriculture plays a fundamental role in nutrition and health. However, majority of our farmers and agri-prenuers either do not grow these plants or grow them for business and not consumption. This makes them miss the health benefits that come with these plants. Besides, majority of people are not aware of the value of these plants in their bodies and there is no policy interventions to promote their utilization (production, value addition and consumption. This is despite being beneficial in treatment and management of lifestyle diseases which consume a significant part of the country’s budget, ultimately depriving the country of productive resources.

There are different initiatives that can be undertaken to progressively promote the adoption and utilization of spices and herbs in Kenya. The government should provide enabling policy environment, and develop programs to support production and utilization of spices and herbs including popularization of recipes; through a multi-sectoral approach. The private sector should in turn generate demand for production and utilization (including consumption) of the diverse herbs and spices, as well as other nutritious foods.

Here is an exciting recipe of Ginger lemon squash that comes with the health benefits of lemon, ginger and honey including weight control, glowing skin and keeping flu ad colds away;

Ginger Lemon Squash

  • Take a heavy bottomed pan and put water,
  • Heat 1 liter of water to boiling then add honey or sugar while stirring continuously till the mixture becomes thick (sugar melts or honey mixes to form a slurry) and keep aside.
  • Prepare lemon/lime juice
  • Wash 4-5 roots of ginger (100gm of powder), add 1 glass of water and blend to make juice
  • When the water and sugar/honey solution becomes warm, add the lemon/lime juice and ginger juice and mix well.
  • Leave the mixture to cool and transfer in a glass bottle and refrigerate.
  • Take out the required amount and dilute for use and refrigerate the remainder.
  • This can be used for up to 3months.

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