Hidden Hunger

An accessible digital information system to inform rural communities about what crops to grow locally to ensure a complete diet with the aim to integrate this approach on a community level.





Sustainable Development Goal Targeted: Good Health and Well-Being and Zero Hunger.


Food Security

Subsistence farmers focus heavily on crops that are well-known regionally and reliable, in order to have enough income to provide for their family and continue farming into the next season. This cycle of dependence on limited, often nutritionally deficient crops (e.g. Maize) decreases the system’s ability to handle environmental disasters caused by disease and weather conditions.

Stunted Growth

More than 26% of preschool children in Kenya, 37 % in Nigeria and 33 % in South Africa are stunted, in other words short for their age. This condition represents a chronic form of undernourishment in early life and leads to irrecoverable physical and mental development.

Economic empowerment

Heavy reliance on few limited crops causes economic hardship through fluctuating market prices and having to pay high prices for alternate foods if they are available at all. Diversifying crop production within a community and harnessing market effects to improve agricultural output can improve economic opportunity across communities.


This project originated from a team spanning 4 countries and comprising 16 researchers as part of the Australian Africa Universities Network (AAUN). One of the studies that inspired the project was a study of what households in four of South Africa’s poorest rural communities eat in summer and winter. It found that when households grew their own crops to eat, their dietary diversity improved. This research originated from the University of Pretoria.

A digital solution has been utilised successfully to address similar issues in India centered around a smart computing framework. Combining insights from this on the ground experience and the research the team designed a mobile based information system for Africa to inform about crops that can be grown locally to address nutritional deficiencies in their diet and information about how to grow these crops.

The researchers are creating a database of crops that can be grown in different parts of Africa and the types of nutrition these crops can provide. Using Food and Agriculture organisation guidelines they have devised a way to identify missing nutrients in people’s diet. This enables the product to recommend locally grown cereal, fruits, and vegetables that they can eat, information about how to grow these crops and related nutritional aspects.


Users can sign in to the mobile app and identify where they live using the map. Next, they can provide some information about their household and take the Food Survey. In the food survey, the user is shown images of commonly consumed food organised into 16 food categories and then selects types of food that they have consumed in the last 24 hours. At the end, a summary is provided based on nutritional aspects.

Next, they can explore available locally grown crops and vegetables that can address nutritional deficiencies identified in their diet. They also can obtain information about how to grow these crops.

Household diet menu provides a summary of the users diet in the last 24 hours, over 3 days and 5 days. Such population statistics collected over a period of time will enable decision and policy-makers to better allocate resources and create policies in a coordinated way to encourage local communities to grow their own food to eliminate hidden hunger from Africa.

Academic Credit

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