Educating Agents of Nutrition in Zambia

Educating Agents of Nutrition in Zambia

Dec 30, 2019

In August 2017, People in Need (PIN), with support from private donors, launched a development program in the Kalabo District of Zambia’s Western Province, to enhance people’s living standards through agriculture. Two years later, the Women in Innovation (WIN) program is having a real impact on the rural region’s ability to recognize and resist poverty. 

“WIN combines agricultural support with the promotion of nutritious meal preparation from locally available foods, access to markets, and the fostering of hygienic and healthy habits,” says Christine Ndopu Inutu, People in Need’s Project Manager. “Special attention is given to the most vulnerable.”

The WIN program focuses on three commodities: vegetables, pulses, and poultry. Project beneficiaries receive high-quality seeds for rape, okra, Swiss chard, groundnut, and cowpeas, as well as a local breed of chickens. They also receive education on how to commoditize the mungongo tree, which has nuts that can be used for a variety of food and non-food items.

Chickens, cooking, and the end of malnutrition

Education is a key aspect of the WIN initiative. For instance, beneficiaries in the chicken program were given five hens and one rooster. Then they were trained in coop construction, disease management, and vaccinations. Mukelabai Nowanga, who participated in the second phase of the project as a chicken beneficiary, has since leveraged the original aid to grow her flock and increase her profits. “I managed to sell three [hens] to buy a warm jersey for my school-going child,” she says. “I have also been using the eggs for relish in my home.”

Mukelabai has also been participating in PIN-organized cooking sessions. The 12-day cooking sessions bring mothers with young children together to socialize and learn. “Mothers meet with the support of community health volunteers and learn from them how to prepare nutritious meals from the locally available and grown foodstuffs, which can promote the health of their children,” explains Christine Ndopu Inutu.

For Mukelabai, the complementary trainings – animal husbandry and cooking lessons – have helped her improve the quality of food she providers her family. “I have been using the eggs from my chickens to make egg porridge for my youngest child, a cooking method which I learnt from the cooking sessions.”

The cooking sessions also help to rehabilitate underweight children and prevent malnutrition within the community. During the classes, mothers learn how to feed their children in a way that promotes health. “With the knowledge I have gained from the cooking sessions, I can cook banana relish at my home, which is now turning into a family favorite dish,” says Mukelabai. “I knew how to make paw-paw relish but now I can change the relish according to what ingredients I have around.”

Fueling demand for edible oil

Another phase of the WIN project is teaching people about the nutritional value of the ubiquitous mungongo tree, which produces hard fruits harboring very nutritious nuts. Mungongo nuts can complement vegetables, fish, and porridges, and can also be processed locally to produce oil that is used for cooking as well as for skin, hair, and treatment of burns and stings.

Through the cooking sessions, Mukelabai was even able to launch a mungongo oil business, which is now flourishing. “The cooking sessions have really increased people’s knowledge about local foods,” she says. “A lot of people are now buying mungongo oil from me.”

Cultivating a miracle tree

In addition to these interventions, PIN has also supported Kalabo communities by providing people with drought-resistant moringa seedlings and cultivation trainings to help mitigate the effects of climate change. “Moringa is a tree that grows very fast even in challenging conditions and is mostly referred to as a miracle tree. The recipients of moringa seedlings were trained in moringa planting and management, as well as in harvesting and processing of the plant’s leaves,” says Christine Ndopu Inutu.

Moringa is a multi-purpose plant; it can be used to cure a number of ailments, such as headaches, stomachaches, toothaches, and hypertension. The plant can be prepared as a vegetable, or as a nutritional supplement that can be added to tea, rice, porridge, chicken, beef, and many other foods. Moreover, moringa can serve as a feed and vaccine for livestock, while gardens can benefit from the plant as a pesticide and organic fertilizer.

Mukelabai also took part in the moringa training, and even applied the knowledge gained to other parts of her farming operations. “The lessons were indeed very helpful; my chickens almost died from Newcastle disease. I used moringa leaves and aloe vera to treat them. Now they are well. I am also using moringa as a nutritional supplement in my meals, even in the porridge for my child. Moringa is working very well for me, I have even treated cough with fresh moringa leaves cultivated in the morning.”

A WIN for Zambia

WIN was designed to help PIN establish its mission in Zambia in the fall of 2017. The first phase focused on three Kalabo communities – Mabuto, Nawinda and Nang’ole. The second phase, which began in August 2018, built on the lessons learned and encouraged pilot communities to transfer their new knowledge to three new communities – Sikutwi, Mungongo, and Lizauli. The third phase, which launched at the end of 2019, has been designed to ensure the sustainability of WIN activities by transferring the project ownership to relevant government institutions and the communities themselves.

WIN is thus a unique project reinforced by the complementarity of its activities and the premise that if recipients of knowledge share it with others, communities can become agents of lasting change.

Author: Namukolo Mate, PIN Zambia Communication Officer