Bouriema Diarra walks back and forth between the water tap and his fruit trees, a bucket in hand. He uses at least one bucket of water for each tree. Mr. Diarra waters the trees each morning when he returns from the mosque. He has mango trees, guava trees, orange trees, banana trees, and papaya trees in his yard. His wife and children often help him with the watering.
Now in his 60s, Mr. Diarra is a retired government official living in Dedougou. The city is located in the Boucle de Mouhoun region, about 130 kilometres from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.
Mr. Diarra has no intention of selling his fruit. The main reason he takes such good care of his trees is to feed his family. He has two sons aged 16 and 19 years old, and is always concerned with offering a good diet—balanced and varied—to his teenagers.
He says: “In addition to [receiving] shade [from the trees], we enjoy the fruit all the time. For someone retired like me, it is not easy to have the means to pay for it. But it is necessary for the children for their good growth. Actually, it is [now] the time for papayas and we eat them after each meal.”
Though infant malnutrition is well-known, specialists say that juvenile malnutrition—in adolescents 10 to 19—is not as well known. A report from Burkina Faso’s health ministry indicates that the most widespread malnutrition problems among adolescents are anemia and deficiencies of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, and vitamin A.
Nutritionist Dr. Abdoulaye Gueyé says: “Teens have a huge need for food rich in vitamins and energy. This period of adolescence is crucial for the growth of young people. This is the age of puberty when many organs are developing. Without these foods, their body may be dysfunctional or delayed in growth. They can feel weak because there is something they are missing. For example, it can be difficult [for them] to study.”
A 2018 study by the private firm Elsie Service Consulting showed that the head of the household is primarily responsible for the family menu. But many household heads don’t understand the principles of nutrition. Their focus is on ensuring two daily meals, and they don’t take into account the specific needs of teens. The study found that household heads often believe that:
– Though food is considered scared, teens do not have a respectful attitude towards it.
– Teens want to eat what they see on TV.
– Teens who eat large, hearty meals cannot concentrate on their work at school, and they should make more efforts to succeed.
– A good meal is one that gives strength.
In fact, one of the most important principles in eating a healthy diet is consuming a variety of foods that are rich in different kinds of nutrients.
If some heads of household have misconceptions about diet, others are challenged by poverty.
Jules Sawadogo is a 15-year-old teenager. He says: “For me, my diet is not balanced because I do not have the means. When I compare myself to my classmates of the same age who eat well, there is no comparison. They are in better shape and stronger than me.”
According to the nutritionist, Dr. Gueyé, families with little money could raise chickens to provide their families with eggs, one of the most complete proteins.
Planting fruit trees can also help overcome nutrition difficulties. Different fruits are produced at different times of the year and contain various nutrients that play a significant role in the healthy functioning of the body.
Mr. Diarra sees that his sons are benefiting from his efforts to give them good food. He says: “To see children, especially those you know, suffer from a lack of vitamins because of poverty, I must lead by example by providing a balanced diet to my teens. I am passing this message along to my children. So many people in the yard, so many fruit trees.”
This article was produced with the support of the Government of Canada through the project “Promoting health, sexual and reproductive rights, and nutrition among adolescents in Burkina Faso (ADOSANTE).” The ADOSANTE project is led by a consortium including Helen Keller International, Marie Stopes-Burkina Faso (MS/BF), Farm Radio International, the Centre d’information de Conseils et de Documentation sur le Sida et la Tuberculeuse (CICDoc), and the Réseau Afrique Jeunesse Santé et Développement (RAJS)..