The perfect gift for Mother’s Day, by Kiri Carter (ChildFund New Zealand)

 Community members being trained in gunny sack garden farming.As Mother’s Day approaches, stories about motherhood abound. One theme repeated all around the world is the challenge of getting children to eat nutritious food. Kiwi mums have plenty of choice when it comes to healthy food options and strategies to get kids to eat well. But imagine living in a place where nutritional knowledge is scarce and food variety even scarcer. Where it’s accepted practice to fill up your toddler on weak milky tea. Where, as a result, three-quarters of children between three and five years old suffer from iron deficiency. That’s the reality for Maasai children in the rural community of Emali, Kenya.

The Maasai are one of two tribal groups in Emali that ChildFund works closely with, the other being the Kamba. The Maasai are pastoralists raising cows and goats, while the Kamba are farmers, working the land to grow crops. It would seem like an ideal union but it’s a hand-to-mouth existence for almost all the families there. Invited by ChildFund and funded by the New Zealand Government’s Aid Programme, nutrition scientists from Otago and Kenyatta universities ran a study that found many children from both groups had anaemia, iron and zinc deficiencies. The children also suffered from frequent stomach upsets, fevers, and respiratory illnesses.

Children taste testing gunny sack garden produce at school

Children taste testing gunny sack garden produce at school

To combat this vicious cycle of illness and malnutrition, parents, local teachers and caregivers have started to learn about better nutrition. They are learning about concepts such as toddlers needing smaller, frequent and substantial meals.

Of course knowledge is power, but food and tools have to be available to put it into practice. Nutritious green vegetables, for instance, are easily grown in hessian or gunny sack bags. These gardens are put together with a sack, soil, an old pipe and gravel. Easy to make, using less water, space efficient, mobile, and able to grow a variety of greens, the gunny sack gardens are now being grown in preschools and home gardens in Emali, and provide much needed variety and nutrition for young children.

For Mother’s Day  in New Zealand, Kiwi landscape designer  Xanthe White has created easy to follow instructions so Kiwi families can experience the satisfaction of wholesome home-grown veggies by making their own Kenyan-inspired gunny sack garden.

XantheWhitewithGunnyBag (492x640)

Xanthe White with Gunny Bag

As well as creating your own gunny sack garden, you can buy the gift of a nutritional training voucher for a mum in Kenya, or veggie seeds or chickens, or any number of gifts via ChildFund Gifts that Grow to help give children a better start in life. Because as every mum knows, the best gift for Mother’s Day is a happy healthy child.  You can find out more about Gifts that Grow for Mother’s Day and ChildFund’s work at

Kiri Collage

Kiri (right) with two “friends”, working for ChildFund NZ in Sri Lanka.

Kiri Carter works  for ChildFund NZ, the New Zealand branch of ChildFund, an international child supporting charity organisation.  Kiri says, “I’ve seen firsthand what extreme poverty looks like for children. Through no fault of their own children suffer. As my mum used to say ‘we don’t choose the bed we’re born in’. But we can choose to help, to make a difference.”