Nutrition Education Lessons for Malawian farmers as a trigger for changing lifestyles in order to avoid extreme growth retardation (stunting) in their children
Malawian children are, compared to children of the same age in the neighboring southern African countries, most affected by stunting. This growth retardation manifesting as low height-for-age is said to be the prominent visible symptom of the hidden hunger – for the children and their mothers.
One reason for the shortage of micronutrients is the daily monotony of the diet, since about three quarters of the daily consumed calories in Malawi come from a single foodstuff, the maize. In many families, there is often not even enough maize available for everyone.
A UN aid program, called Improving Food Security and Nutrition Policies and Programs Outreach (IFSN), aims to improve the nutrient diversity on the field, plate and market (1). The program promotes the cultivation, consumption and distribution of six Malawi food groups (staples, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, animal foods as well as fats and oils) as an alternative to maize.
However, in Malawi (as well as in other cultures) eating habits, which have been practiced for decades, do not change all of a sudden. Even if there is, objectively seen, an advantage for children (and everyone else), it requires sensitive communication paths in order to integrate the nutritionally correct knowledge on eating habits in the everyday family life.
In Malawi the Nutrition Education Lessons incorporated in the mentioned IFSN-program have been tested in Farmer- and Farmer Junior Schools. The teaching concept combines information on cycles of sowing as well as ripening and harvest on the field with the knowledge of cycles in human life and family life. In six month courses rural communities learn effective techniques for the cultivation, harvesting, storage, preparation and sale of typical local foods, supplemented by advice on healthy nutrition for children and adults.
To display this information easy comprehensible pictures of crops and exemplary meals are used as well as illustrated calendars and graphically designed lists that provide information on the nutritional content of field and forest fruits. The, between 2011 and 2015, tested Malawian villages conducting Nutrition Education Lessons have been presented to the public during the small Berlin World Food Conference in June 2016 Berlin as a “best practice” example.
Read and see more:
(1) Stacia Nordin. Feed the Future. Malawi Strengthening Agriculture & Nutrition Extension Services Activity: Nutrition Education Lessons from Improving Food Security & Nutrition (IFSN) – Policy & Programme Outreach, Malawi, Africa. Slides of a speech given at the Conference Policies against Hunger. Berlin 22.-24. Jun I 2016. Available via: https://www.policies-against-hunger.de//fileadmin/SITE_MASTER/content/Dokumente/2016/AG_4_01_Nordin.pdf
(2) FAO (2015). Malawi. Summary of the Food Security Intervention Improving Food Security & Nutrition Policies and Programme Outreach (IFSN). Available via: http://www.fao.org/3/a-bc618e.pdf
(3) BMEL (2016). Policies against Hunger. Conference material. Available via: https://www.policies-against-hunger.de/en/