Training Women in the Agro-Processing Workforce on Nutrition
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.