Training Women in the Agro-Processing Workforce on Nutrition

Training Women in the Agro-Processing Workforce on Nutrition

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Despite their matching green uniforms, Alaa, Hajar and Mariam each have their own specific role at El Baiaho Agricultural Community Development Association pack house, located in the outskirts of Minya, Egypt. Alaa labels the dewy green grapes with a branded sticker. Hajar takes the grapes from the packaging line and makes sure they are ready for sale. And Mariam weighs the grapes before packaging.
“We wish to work. This job allows us to get our own money for private [education] lessons and we are also able to help our families,” said Hajar.

Alaa, Hajar, and Mariam are just three of the young women hired by El Baiaho to support their post-harvest operations which involves sorting, packaging and storing a variety of crops, including grapes, pomegranate, tomato, and garlic for export. All three women are still attending school during the day, after which they make the journey to work. During their holiday breaks, these women spend even longer hours to increase their income.

In early June, Alaa, Hajar, and Mariam temporarily hung up their green jackets along with their fellow female employees at El Baiaho to participate in a training focused on nutrition for women in the agro-processing workforce. Across Egypt, undernutrition and stunting rates for children remain high, which results in economic costs that hinder the development of the nation.

To address this issue, USAID’s Feed the Future Egypt, Food Security and Agribusiness Support (FAS) project organized a three-day training aimed at building awareness on nutritional requirements for teenage girls and to promote the importance of investing their income in their own and their future children’s health and nutrition. The training was led by Dr. Amal Hassanein Abouelmajed, Agri-Nutrition team leader on the FAS project who has a postgraduate diploma in hospital dietetics and has extensive experience working in food and nutrition on projects across Egypt and has attended trainings internationally.

The hands-on training instilled participants with knowledge on the types of food that are critical for improving health and child development, such as identifying foods rich in iron, vitamins and proteins. The young women also received training in good hygienic practices, such as the importance of hand washing as well as practical methods to prevent food poisoning. “I learned a lot that I did not know before. I learned about how to organize food in the fridge to keep it fresh,” said Hajar.

“I learned about the food pyramid which helped me to know what types of food and how much to eat to stay healthy,” said Alaa.

The training did not stop at the doors of El Baiaho. All three young women spoke of sharing the knowledge and tools they had acquired through the training with their families back home. “The day I got the training, I went home and practiced what I learned with my family. I opened up the fridge and showed them what we should now do,” said Mariam.

This training was just one piece of what the FAS project aims to achieve to improve the nutritional status particularly of women and children. Over the coming two years, the FAS project plans to provide training to 300 community nutrition mobilizers, who in turn will conduct outreach on nutrition to 3,000 households. In addition to expanding nutrition trainings to women in the agro-processing workforce to additional companies, the FAS team is also in the early stages of sending out SMS text messages that focus on key nutrition topics through the digital extension service platform (DESP). Using this method, more women will be exposed to the essential knowledge on the link between nutrition and leading healthy, productive lives.

“This type of training is so good for us because when we grow up and have our own children, we will know better how to keep our family healthy,” said Hajar.

Changing Male Perception towards Domestic Duties

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Although Rwanda has registered remarkable improvements in gender equality, some men continue to shun domestic duties as reserved for women. Those that get involved in domestic chores often end up being ridiculed by fellow males as ‘inganzwa’ (a reference to a husband who is subservient to his wife), a tendency that discourages males from supporting their wives at home. However, one farmer has vowed to change this status quo.

Elaste Mbonimpaye, (35), resides in Kabusunzu village, Isangano cell, Ndego sector in Kayonza district. He supports his wife at home but is always dismayed by the attitude of fellow males towards domestic chores. Luckily, he was selected by his community to become a male gender champion. These are groups organized by HW to mobilize males to engage in gender and nutrition-related activities. Through current community volunteers – 150 male gender champions, 150 female role models, and 100 Youth for Change, HW is mobilizing communities to adopt dietary diversity and proper nutrition. The aim is to improve the nutritional status for women and children and to increase yield and incomes for 560,000 farmers.

Elaste joined a care group in September 2018 and received training on gender equality and female empowerment with focus on equitable decision – making regarding family incomes and equal division of labor. Leading by example, he showed how this has changed his own household. That is all he needed to mobilize and train 30 farmers in his group and their spouses, who are now able to take joint decisions and divide home chores.

His wife, Nakure Médiatrice, is evidence of how increased support with childcare enabled her to have enough spare time to engage in the activities of a women savings group. She invested 40,000 RWF of her savings into a small retail shop of fresh foods and vegetables.

“I’m now closer to my children while my wife is now generating income for the family,” observed Elaste.

From the savings, they were able to acquire three additional plots of land, paid for community health insurance for the whole family, and bought scholastic materials for their children.

The family is still counting their gains. The wife has since gained confidence to make decisions at home and that has opened many windows of opportunity. She now has spare time to educate other women on how to manage domestic affairs and also takes care of herself.

Transforming women and children welfare through care groups

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Although Rwanda has registered strides in improving nutritional intake for women and children, numerous challenges still abound. According to the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability analysis (2015), about 20% of households nationwide are considered food insecure. In Gatsibo alone, the study found that about 3% of households are severely food insecure.

One Gatsibo resident who has experienced this challenge is Denyse Nyirabakunzi, a resident of Kageyo Sector, Gituza Cell, Kabacuzi Village. It was worrying not being able to properly feed her six children. But something more worrying caught Denyse’s attention.  This was a case of two malnourished children in her neighborhood who appeared sickly and underweight. They did not have enough to eat. Denyse wanted to help but was hampered by limited knowledge of nutrition.

‘’We didn’t know how to prepare diversified diets because of limited knowledge on nutrition, “observed Denyse.

An opportunity arrived when Denyse was recruited by community health workers to join one of the care groups usually made up of 20 to 30 members. Funded by USAID and Feed the Future, Hinga Weze is utilizing care groups disseminate nutrition messages, encourage members to save and improve hygiene. Hinga Weze mainly aims to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food to a changing climate.

Care group members harvest beetroot from a garden belonging to one of the members

Through her group, Denyse and fellow members are able to receive messages on nutrition and to conduct cooking demonstrations. Her group is one of the 1,219 new ones Hinga Weze has established in 10 districts, consisting of more than 34,000 households that are coached by community health workers and farmer promoters. In Gatsibo alone, Hinga Weze set up 2,000 households.

With help from fellow care group members care group, Denyse was able to provide nutritious foods for the two malnourished children, but also taught their families how to diversify and prepare diets and maintain hygiene to fight against germs.  And there is more.  Her care group has been able to save 51,000Rwf part of which is used to acquire nutritious foods for cooking demonstrations.

“I have learned to prepare a balanced and diversified diet and how to preserve vegetables to be used during dry seasons,” Denyse observed as she emphasized the importance of peer learning.

She has set up a kitchen garden near her home to serve as a model for other community members and also to provide vegetables for her own family. Using the demonstration garden, Denyse has so far 53 neighboring households who, in turn, set up their own kitchen gardens. Denyse is preparing for the larger mission of ensuring that her village is food secure and free of malnourished children.

Support for Agro-Dealers improves business and access to farm input

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Agro-dealers are an essential part of the agricultural value chain system, but their business can be lucrative or daunting depending on which side of the coin you flip. Uwayisaba Pacifique (35), and mother of two, has experienced the downside of this. She has been an agro-dealer in Ngororero District for the last 9 years since 2009, and her business first registered growth, but later slowed down, making losses due to low profits and delays in the delivery of goods.

“I had to close 20 out of my 25 outlets to cut on losses and stay afloat. I used to stock 2,500 tons per year, now this has shrunk to 700 tons,” she explained. Her woes resulted from operating in a disorganized business environment with no clear guidelines to follow.

The introduction of (APTC), Agro Processing Trust Corporation, as a one distribution agency also meant that the 100Rwf per kilogram that Agro-Dealers gained had to reduce to 30 Rwf. The arrangement also had other side-effects. Agro-Dealers in a particular locality were required to wait for others to place their orders, making some run out of stock and fail to deliver on time what smallholder farmer what to buy in time for a particular season.

Pacifique Uwayisaba makes inventory of fertilizers before distribution

“My clients would find when I have run out of stock while waiting for other Agro-Dealers to make their order to have a single delivery. This was hurting my business and I lost many clients to my rivals,” Pacifique observed.

Not out of options, Pacifique joined Agro-Dealers being organized by Hinga Weze in ten districts of Gatsibo, Bugesera, Rutsiro, Nyabihu, Karongi, Nyamasheke, Nyamagabe, Kayonza, Ngoma, and Ngororero. With funding from USAID and Feed the Future, Hinga Weze is mobilizing Agro-Dealers to provide affordable and easily accessible inputs as one of the mechanisms to sustainably increase smallholder farmers’ income and increase the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food to a changing climate.

The first step for Hinga Weze was to arrange for Agro-Dealers to get certified. Pacifique has been sensitized on the 2012 Organic Law governing agrochemicals as well as the Ministerial Order of 2016 regulating agrochemicals and is now sensitizing others. So far Hinga Weze has assisted 212 Agro-Dealers to comply with the agrochemical law out of 240 Agro-Dealers that operating in the 10 districts. Pacifique is among the 7 Agro-Dealers already certificated in April 2018 by the regulating body RALIS (Rwanda Agriculture Livestock Inspection and Certification Services).

To improve on profit margin, Hinga Weze carried out an assessment on the fertilizer subsidies and pricing impact that established losses Agro-Dealers incur in business. Lobbying on their behalf, profits on agro inputs have been revised, increasing the profit margin by 10Rwf per kg from 30Rwf francs to 40Rwf.  This includes 2Rwf for the farmer promoter.

“1 felt empowered when I was given the certificate, and this new profit margin means I can increase my annual stock up again to 1,000 tons,” observed Pacifique.

Hinga Weze is mobilizing Agro-Dealers to form cooperatives, building on 30 already registered countrywide. As head of Agro-Dealers in Ngororero, Pacifique is borrowing a leaf from Nyamagabe Agro-Dealers’ cooperative that now has distribution rights around the district. Her group is now requesting to have the same distribution rights, thereby increasing the profit margin by 3Rwf per kg allocated as distribution fee.  The sky is the limit for this enterprising woman.

USAID support to farmers in Bugesera promotes nutrition sensitive agriculture

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Didacienne Mukandaruhutse (60) a farmer, widow and mother of five (4 daughters and a son) has faced her fair share of difficulties having lived in a region of the eastern province of Rwanda that faces constant drought. Putting enough food on the table for her family, balanced and diversified, is difficult and ensuring that her children have the required nutrients for healthy growth and strength to support in cultivating her small land is a constant challenge.

Didacienne’s ray of hope came when she was mobilized together with other farmers in Bugesera District, Rukumberi Sector to attend trainings on adopting good agriculture practices to improve nutrition for women and children and adopting practices resilient to harsh climate change.

“Acquiring knowledge by practice about Maternal Infant and Young child nutrition was a life-time eye opener for me and my community as well as my children, we now know that, it is possible to ensure proper nutrition for a smallholder farmer with limited production’’ Didacienne said with a smile.

Whenever she needed nutritious vegetables, she would have to buy from the market not knowing it could easily be done in her compound. “Establishing a home garden was made simple because the community trainers who trained us did it practically with us- so we learnt by doing,’ ’she narrated.

The technical knowledge provided to Didacienne together with other farmers in 10 districts of Rwanda was made possible through the Feed the Future program of Hinga Weze which aims to sustainably improve agricultural productivity, increase smallholder farmers’ income, improve nutritional status of Rwandan women and children. The practical trainings focus on helping farmers acquire skills and implement initiatives that transform their perceptions on nutrition-sensitive activities.

Mothers in Nyabihu district feed their babies after cooking sessions with nutritious food prepared by community health workers

Hinga Weze operates its activities in 10 districts and the nutrition activity has trained farmers in essential nutrition concepts, maternal feeding practices, optimal complementary feeding practices, cooking practices and the establishment of kitchen or home gardens to diversify diet at the household level, including basic budgeting principles to increase consumption of nutrition foods.  Hinga Weze aims to reach a 40% increase in the percentage of children 6-23 months receiving a minimum acceptable diet (MAD), and a 40% increase in the prevalence of women of reproductive age (15-49) consuming targeted nutrient-rich value chain crops.

In the last three months, Hinga Weze has trained 17,912 households on nutrition sensitive agriculture through Farmer Field School (FFS) and Community Farmer promoters (FPs). In addition, 1,484 home gardens were established and Hinga Weze distributed vegetable seeds (carrots, beetroots, red and yellow onions, cabbages, amaranths, spinach) and fruit seeds (watermelon) as part of the support to the household level benefitting 200 farmers who received improved seeds. One of the beneficiaries for this support was Didacienne.

“I look forward to saving money which I used to buy vegetables for my family as well as having the dietary requirements from my home garden which I planted after acquiring knowledge on proper nutrition,” she shared.

Access to Finance Opens Opportunities for Women in Agribusinesses

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Rwanda has registered commendable expansion in the financial sector in the recent past, enabling players in the sector to grow as well. Despite this positive trend, most women continue to miss out, are excluded or underserved. Their worst ordeal is the existence of non-financial barriers like operating in rural settings, low financial literacy and bias towards women as not being bankable enough But there is now hope for women venturing in .

Phoebe Nyirafeza proudly stands at the entrance of her business shop in Karongi

Like most women, Phoebe Nyirafeza (49), a resident of Karongi District, has faced the lows and highs of succeeding ins usually reserved for men. Faced with the pressure of fending for the family after her husband retired in 2011, Phoebe started a small factory called DAZI that processed maize flour locally known as Kawunga. Maize is abundantly produced in Karongi and this seemed an opportunity to add value to a commodity that was readily available and had market locally She produces a mixture of porridge products, of mixed cereals and cracked corn to feed domestic animals.

However, all was not smooth since her business depended on the quality of yield and seasonal hazards, and this made high quality maize scarce. Being credit-shy worsened her situation, making it hard to raise enough capital to maintain keep her business afloat Suddenly her prominence as a shrewd business woman around Rubengera Sector where she resides started to fade as business went decreased.

“This business has been challenging because I needed money to pay suppliers and to buy the best maize grades, yet prices have shot up,” Nyirafeza says with a frown on her face. The hard fact of seeing her business worth 28 million in capita lgo down was a rude awakening, Opportunity came when Hinga Weze assessed her business, offered training on record keeping, and linked her to INKUNGA Micro- Finance that provided credit worth 106,000,000 million RWF in September2018. “From the first installment of 20 million RWF, I managed to restock raw materials and repair machines. Production has already improved.”

As a USAID/Feed the Future-funded project, HW facilitates farmers to access finance, linking them to financial service providers. This is part of its wider goal of sustainably increasing smallholder farmers’ income, improving the nutritional status of women and children, and increasing the resilience of Rwanda’s agricultural and food systems to a changing climate. Hinga Weze intends to transform 560,000 smallholder farmers in ten districts.

Phoebe Nyirafeza proudly displays her improved stock in the rented warehouse

By providing technical assistance to lenders to develop farmer-friendly loan products and build capacity for Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs), Hinga Weze has enabled agribusinesses to thrive. In Karongi alone, 155 women have been assisted to receive loans worth 127,417,000 RWF. Like Phoebe, they are encouraging other women in agribusiness to improve on business record keeping, apply for credit and make their businesses thrive.

VS&L Group Builds Resilience for their Families and Communities

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Date:  October 2018

Place: Tsholotsho (Mayeza Village, Ward 11)

In February 2017, tropical cyclone Dineo destroyed community assets throughout Western Zimbabwe, including communities in certain wards of Tsholotsho District. The heavy winds and precipitation resulted in heavy flooding, especially around river banks, that damaged buildings and fields and created streams and gullies. Some community members’ households were so thoroughly damaged that they had to be temporarily relocated to Sipepa Rural Hospital and Sipepa Primarily and Secondary Schools. Community members also reported losing their property, livestock, and personal documents (national identification card and health cards). The Amalima program works with Village Saving and Lending (VS&L) groups, like the women of Thembisa VS&L Group, to improve access to savings, especially for women, to build community resilience to shocks. Through assistance from the USAID-funded Amalima program, members of Thembisa VS&L group have been able to raise funds to construct flood proof housing to better protect themselves against future flooding.

The Thembisa VS&L group is a 10 member, all female group which has used VS&L group funds to invest in floodproof housing. The group originally formed in 2009 as a savings and lending group to address a challenge faced by many communities’ members – poor access to funds for important household expenses. The group started out by having each member contribute $10 USD monthly. Members could then borrow from the group fund when an expense came up which exceeded the amount they had available, like school fees, medical costs, or funeral expenses. Then in 2015, the group received training from Amalima on the VS&L model and learned to not just contribute monthly to a group fund, but also to provide loans with interest to further increase their group fund.

In 2016, the group joined a disaster risk reduction training. By being based in a lower lying area and near the banks of the Manzamnyama River, their ward is located in a flood prone area. While the most recent flood was in 2017, there have also been reports of heavy floods in 1978, 2001, and 2013. Amalima’s disaster risk reduction training is focused on hazard identification, mapping, ranking and coming up with mitigation measures, and the plan to implement the various activities. After completing the training, community members create plans to prioritize what work needs to be done by the community to reduce the risk of disasters. These activities include constructing fire guards; removing harmful invasive plants like Lantana Camara and Opuntia; and rehabilitating dams by de-silting, clearing the dam wall of vegetation, and protecting the catchment area.

After receiving the DRR training, Thembisa VS&L group saw the challenges faced by community members when the 2017 floods hit. While no members of the VS&L had their home destroyed, their property was still hurt and several of their neighbors’ homes were destroyed. In response, the group decided to use their group savings towards supplying each member with a reinforced home to protect against future floods. Using funds raised through their group income generating project and VS&L fundraisers, each member is provided a pre-selected set of materials and labor valued at $1,105, as listed below:

  • Bricks (valued at $200)
  • Roof trusses (valued at $260)
  • Metal roofing or thatched roofing (valued at $120)
  • Cement (valued at $225)
  • Labor provided by a builder (valued at $300)

To date, six members have received the full package of materials and labor. Four members are still outstanding, however the group aims to raise the rest of the funds needed to supply the outstanding members by the end of January. Without the funds generated through their Amalima-supported VS&L activities, the members say they would not have had the funds to build these disaster resistant homes.

The accomplishment of the Thembisa VS&L group has inspired other VS&Ls in the area to also invest in floodproof housing. As other community members are seeing the outcomes of Thembisa VS&L’s initiative and hard work, they are also saving to build their own flood proof housing. For example, Zamimpilo VS&L has completed construction of two floodproof houses and is in the process of constructing two more floodproof houses. The other 7 groups in the village are in the process of saving up funds for construction of their flood proof structures.

VS&L Group Builds Resilience for their Families and Communities

Thembisa VS&L group with floodproof housing

Care Group Training Improves the Confidence of Members to Improve Health of Children

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Date: October 2017

Place: Mangwe District (Kwite Village, Ward 1)

Rebecca Nondo is a 33- year-old mother of three living in the Mangwe district of Zimbabwe, where access to year-round access to food is limited. In the Matabeleland South province, where Mangwe is located, 44 percent of the population experience food insecurity during the peak hunger period of February to March. In addition, 2.8 percent of children under five in Mangwe experience acute malnutrition. The USAID-funded Amalima Program aims to improve the food security of households in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe by providing a monthly ration of  corn-soy blend and fortified vegetable oil to beneficiaries like Rebecca. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children-under-two are eligible to receive the supplementary ration as part of the program’s efforts to reduce stunting and malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s development.

Amalima also promotes improved maternal and child health, and nutrition through Care Groups – community-level meetings led by a trained volunteer and attended regularly by eight to ten caregivers to discuss issues including infant and young child feeding practices, the importance of antenatal care visits, exclusive breastfeeding infants during the first six months of life, supplementary feeding for children 6-24 months, and types of locally-available, nutrient-rich foods that are part of a healthy diet.

Rebecca decided to join her local Care Group after being approached by a Care Group Volunteer at an Amalima distribution. She was pregnant with her third child, and had never received formal instructions about how to raise a healthy child. She was especially interested in learning about proper feeding practices for her young children of varying ages. This was a particular point of stress for Rebecca; she didn’t feel confident about what type of food was best to provide, or the right portion size of a meal. Sometimes she would wait until her child was crying to know that they were hungry.

From Left to Right: Cousin Dineo Nngowa, Care Group Member Rebecca Nondo, Grandfather Luke Ndlovu, and group leader Gloria Dube

Through participation in Care Group activities, Rebecca learned about meal preparation and feeding schedules for her children. She frequently uses the Amalima recipe book, which was created to help caregivers prepare diverse and nutritious meals for her family. The recipes feature locally available vegetables, which she sources mostly from her home garden. Recipes also specify preparation times, quantities of individual ingredients needed, and how much each recipe will produce.

Rebecca’s participation in the Care Group has impacted the whole family. Rebecca’s father-in-law, Luke Ndolvu, has become an advocate for her participation in the Care Group because he clearly recognizes the improvement in her ability to care for and respond to the needs of her children. While explaining the impact of the Care Group, he explains, “If a child is not well, [she] now knows how to respond.” Gloria Dube, Rebecca’s Care Group leader, makes regular home visits to the household where she works with the other family members as well to encourage the adoption of new, improved health practices that as easily implemented at home. Rebecca’s father-in-law now also feels capable of caring for the children when she is away, and her cousin has applied some of the practices to her own family to raise healthier children.

Integration across program activities brings improved food security

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According to Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s 2018 Rural Livelihoods Assessment, the number of food insecure households in Matabeleland North and South are expected to double in the 2018/2019 season as compared to projections from the 2017 Rural Livelihood Assessment for the 2017/2018 season.[1] This increase in projected food insecurity can be contributed to the changing environmental, political and economic climate in the country which impacts the availability of food, access to food, the safe and healthy utilization of food and stability of food availability, access and utilization. The USAID-funded Amalima program is seeking to address and help stabilize this changing level of food security by providing monthly food rations to mothers and care givers in Matabeleland North and South. While distributing food rations addresses immediate nutritional needs, they are not a sustainable strategy towards the program’s objective of reducing stunting for children under five by improving nutrition, expanding and diversifying agricultural production, increasing household income and reducing risk of disasters by improving resilience. Amalima is targeting ration recipients and encouraging them to participate in all Amalima activities to adopt behaviors that can continue after

Living in Southwestern Zimbabwe, Blessed Mhlanaga is responsible for taking care of her household and  three children, ranging in ages from 11 months to eight years. Each day, Ms. Mhlanga must clean her home, care for her children, purchase or produce food for her household, cook for her family, and gather the water and firewood necessary for household chores. While Ms. Mhlanga works hard to balance her responsibilities, she has experienced challenges in attending to her home while also being attentive to her children. In early 2014, Ms. Malanga attended a ward meeting where she first learned about Amalima, including the fact that pregnant and lactating women and children 2-23 months were eligible to receive a monthly food ration. After delivering her second children, Ms. Mhlanaga signed up to receive rations as a lactating mother.

Amalima is currently working at 87 food distribution points to provide a monthly ration of 5.5 kgs of Corn Soya Blend Plus (CSB+) and 1.38 kgs of fortified vegetable oil per month for pregnant and lactating women; and 3 kgs of CSB+ and 0.92 kgs of oil per month for children 6-23 months. These food baskets supplement the diet of either the mother or child under two years and provide necessary nutrients that are not easily accessible to vulnerable families. During food distributions, Amalima encourage ration recipients to participate in its other activities by inviting recipients to join and providing a taster of lessons promoted in activities by having existing groups provide pre-distribution “edutainment” in the form of dance, songs or drama that center around a key lesson or promoted behavior.

Ms. Mhlanga was invited to join a Community Health Club by a Community-based Volunteer, who trains club members following a Participatory Health and Hygiene Curriculum, and then joined a Care Group to learn about good childcare practices. In her involvement with the Community Health Club, Ms. Mhlanga attended trainings sessions with other recipients on health and sanitation and constructed hygiene-enabling structures in her home, such as a latrine and multiple hand washing stations. To continue supporting health in the household, the Community-based Volunteers Amalima staff encourages members join other Amalima groups, including Care Groups, and farmer groups during the training sessions to continue improving the health and hygiene of their families. While receiving lessons as a Community Health Club member, Ms. Mhlanga joined a Care Group to learn how she could better care for her children, especially her second child who was five months old at the time.  In explaining why she wanted to join another group she said, “being a part of a group means you are learning from each other and are sharing the work instead of doing it alone.”

In her role as a Care Group member, Ms. Mhlanga learned about important infant and young child feeding practices and shared experiences with other care givers. The Care Groups are supported by a Lead Mother who provides monthly lessons following four Care Group modules and conducts home visits with each member to provide one-one-one support and reinforce the lessons. During these lessons, Ms. Mhlanga was taught to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, not feeding the infant any water or porridge, and breastfeed until the child was satisfied. Ms. Mhlanga learned to take her time when feeding her children, instead rushing to continue with household chores. Through the home visits, the Lead Mother was able to provide suggestions on how to better adopt the promoted behaviors. The home visits also play an important role in reaching other family members, who can influence whether the mother adopts behaviors, by talking to them directly and explaining what was discussed in the group lessons. For Ms. Mhlanga, her husband is unable to attend the home visits, but she has experienced his support by

While attending Care Group trainings with her third child, Ms. Mhlanga also joined a Conservation Agriculture group after receiving the healthy harvest training. Within the Care Group curriculum, Amalima includes training on the importance of creating a nutritious and diverse plate and training on producing food for home consumption. During this training, Lead Mothers stress the value of participating in productive agricultural activities for household consumption and household income to purchase food necessary to prepare nutritious meals. Ms. Mhlanga just joined the conservation agriculture farmer group in the past year, but has already received training on conservation agriculture and begun preparing her fields alongside members in her farming group.

Since joining a CHC, Care Group and Conservation Agriculture group, Ms. Mhlanga has experienced a mental shift from trying balance her household chores and caring for her children to prioritizing her children, especially the infant who needs more attention. From her involvement in the Care Groups, she has since noticed a big difference between her oldest child, who was born four years before she joined Amalima, and her second two children, who were raised while participating in Amalima trainings. The eldest is more slender and would cry nonstop as an infant, while her older two children are more plump and cry less because they are feed more often. From her involvement with the Community Health Club, her children are enthusiastic to follow in her example of improve hygiene, using the tippy tap constructed during her Community Health Club lessons and helping to keep the homestead clean and orderly. From her involvement in the Conservation Agriculture farmer group, Ms. Mhlanga looks forward to her harvest of sorghum, millet, groundnuts and roundnuts, which she will use primarily to her feed her family and will sell the rest.  Ms. Mhlanga plans to continue participating in Amalima groups, even after the program has closed out, since she believes it is important to continue improving her household. Looking back on her involvement with Amalima she explains, “It is not receiving the porridge and oil, but the lessons taught in my Care Group meetings, CHC training and CA trainings which has been the most valuable.”

 

Care group member, Blessed Mhlanga, with her youngest child

[1] Figures from the ZimVAC 2017 Rural Livelihood Assessment projected XX households in Matabeleland North and South to be food insecure in the 2017/2018 agriculture season, while figures in the ZimVAC 2018 Rural Livelihood Assessment projected 415,340 households in Matabeleland North and South to be food insecure in the 2018/2019 agricultural season. Full reports can be found here: https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/zimbabwe-vulnerability-assessment-committee-zimvac-2017-rural-livelihoods-assessment and https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/zimbabwe-vulnerability-assessment-committee-results-2018.