College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences

Health and life skills training project

The Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Environmental Sciences in collaboration with staff of the Department of Life and Consumer Sciences, Department of Agriculture and Animal Health, the Western Cape and Gauteng regional offices and the Helping Hand NGO has joined hands to improve health and life skills development of identified communities wher such needs were identified. The project is based on a community engagement initiative within the following communities; City of Johannesburg regions A,C and G, Diepsloot, Atridgeville, Guguleto, Khyalithsha and Polsmoor Correctional Services. The staff members of the project team will train community workers, volunteers, health workers and care givers in the following health and skills areas: Agribusiness Management training; Sewing skills towards entrepreneurship; National School Feeding Programme and Paediatric Health. This project will contribute to an understanding of the current status of various environmental factors which are typically associated with malnutrition, diarrheal disease and other health problems.

This community engagement project consists of the following sub-projects:

Agribusiness: Skills development of farming communities in regions A, C and G of the City of Johannesburg, Gauteng

The Department of Agriculture and Animal Health, under the leadership of Prof David Modise, Director of the School for Agriculture and Life Sciences, has recently done needs analysis in the Lenasia community.  It was identified that farmers from the City of Johannesburg regions A, C and J, required skills training with regards to agricultural best practices. Through their training it is hoped that it would have a positive effect on the nutrient and food security of their communities. The project will enable UNISA to find out the present position of farmers with regards to agribusiness skills. More importantly, it will help to find out where the challenges are and how to assist the communities to overcome them.

Nutrition and Food Safety Workshop in Diepsloot

The Department of Life and Consumer Science, UNISA through their involvement in Diepsloot’s community has identified a need to improve the nutritional status of the community through NSNP. It was after need analysis and subsequent training in nutrition where a need for a formal non-credit bearing workshop was identified and hence the incorporation of nutrition and food safety workshop in the program. The average volunteer Food Handlers has typically little nutrition and food safety knowledge partly because the basis for employment is on the ground of having your child in the same school. Thus the inability to practice sound (1) food service administration (2) nutrition principles (3) food safety principles. Therefore, this intervention could help in providing lessons such as the “what/ why and how” to a food safe environment, introduction to foodborne diseases, Safe food handling practices, Nutritious food preparation methods/practices, Nutritious and ideal food consumption patterns – a brief introduction to/ critical aspects of meal planning.

An additional benefit of this capacity training is that it addresses critical aspects of nutrition and food safety to children at their critical stage of growth and development. Diepsloot’s committee is one of the poor communities in Gauteng bombarded with overcrowding and unemployment which poses the learners to food borne illness thus the need for training in order to minimize the risk.

Sewing Techniques – establishing a sustainable SMME  SLP  training in Diepsloot:

The essence of this CE project is to train learners and volunteers in practical sewing techniques and processes for clothing production in Diepsloot and surrounding communities.

As part of community engagement for the Department of Life and Consumer Sciences, a project to teach sewing skills to parents was introduced in April 2013 at the Diepsloot Combined School. During the year a need and an interest was identified by the teachers and the headmaster of the school, to also teach sewing skills to the learners. The school does not offer extra mural activities that contribute to the development of learners that do not take part in sport activities. The teachers also felt that stimulating the learner’s creativity will be good. Learning a skill with income generating potential will greatly benefit the learners as well as the school and the wider community.

A clothing business is labour intensive and operations can be set up almost anywhere. Such a business can be a very important employer particularly in poor communities. The clothing manufacturing sector also offers employment opportunities for low-skilled workers with very few other opportunities. Skills development particularly in clothing production is very important to alleviate poverty and unemployment.

Pediatric health training for clinic workers, health workers and caregivers in collaboration with Unisa Western Cape regional office in Gugulethu, Khyalitsha, Polsmoor correctional facility and Diepsloot

This project deals with critical aspects of paediatric health with the aim to enhance optimal health specifically in (South) Africa where health and health services are a challenge.

In developing countries the prevention of infections is a priority area for health workers. Actions to control infections include health education, hygiene, safe water, sanitation, immunizations and appropriate curative services. Disease transmission can often be reduced by behaviour change, so health education aimed at informing the public about the cause of disease and preventative measures is vital. Some of the messages may be directly related to nutrition, for example encouraging breastfeeding as a means of preventing diarrhoea and other are directly related to food, including those regarding the many food-borne diseases which can be reduced by improved food hygiene.

Therefore, it is essential to provide training to augment primarily health care in the existing community engagement project. 

The purpose of the training is to facilitate, the community members, in evaluating, comprehending, concluding and applying information on specific disease related issues. With attending workshops and information sessions, community members will have the knowledge and skills to practice information in general health conditions, everyday situations and communities.

The objectives of this project are to (1) transfer knowledge of childhood infection and treatment and the advantages of improved nutrition to disadvantaged communities through training sessions, (2)contribute towards gathering information on rotavirus strains circulating in rural and impoverished South African communities; (3) collect stool samples to assist in determining the burden of rotavirus disease in children in informal settlements who are seeking treatment for diarrhoea;  and (4) combine the results of this programme towards translation of medical/nutritional research into health-related policies in South Africa.

Nutrition training for health care workers and care givers in collaboration with Unisa WesternCape regional and Gauteng regional offices in Gugulethu, Khyalitsha, Polsmoor correctional facility and Atridgeville

In developing countries, the prevention of infection is a priority area for all healthcare workers (HCW) and providing nutrition education interventions to such HCWs would assist them and, in turn, directly benefit their communities. A reduction in disease transmission can often be effected by behaviour change and, therefore, health and nutrition education that is aimed at informing the community participants about the cause of disease and preventative measures, is vital. Some of the nutrition-related issues encourage breastfeeding as a means of preventing diarrhoea while others are directly related to food, for example those regarding the many food-borne diseases that may be reduced through improved food hygiene. As many children in poor rural settings experience chronic malnutrition in their early years, they are prone to growth faltering and stunting. In addition, micronutrient deficiencies usually manifest as an amalgamation of different micronutrients at low levels and not as a single micronutrient deficiency. It is currently recognised that even mild micronutrient deficiencies are associated with impaired immune function and susceptibility to infection. The envisaged nutrition and health training course will update, advance, and reinforce the community HCWs and caregivers knowledge and give them confidence in decision-making regarding critical aspects of nutrition management with the aim to improve and optimise nutrition in the broader Skuinsdrift and surrounding communities.

The primary objectives of the health and life skills community engagement project are to:

Train community members, health care workers and caregivers in health and life skills Transfer knowledge of life style diseases, malnutrition and childhood diseases such as those caused by infection with rotavirus as well the advantages of personal hygiene and vaccines to treat such infections Transfer knowledge of the advantages of improved nutrition to increase the overall health of all community members. Explore health behaviour through attitude, perception and value determinants of participants in their local community Monitor the incidence of nutrient insecurity, malnutrition diarrheal diseases in the local communities Determine the nutritional status of children in general and specifically with diarrheal disease Explore the nutritional care practices deployed in household, crèches and schools in general and specifically during diarrheal episodes Study household practices in relation to water usage, personal hygiene and food safety practices Promote optimal health through training and education in relation to nutrition, food safety, personal hygiene decreasing the risk of exposure to malnutrition and diarrheal disease Implementation of strategies for Oral Rehydration Therapy;  and the potential for Improvement in sanitation and control of contamination of water sources. Impact on Primary Health Care where the needs have been identified