“We have enough food for the children, for the families,” says Ndopu. We improve food production for better nutrition and higher incomes in Western Zambia

“We have enough food for the children, for the families,” says Ndopu. We improve food production for better nutrition and higher incomes in Western Zambia

Under the shade of a tree, and spread across a large straw mat covering the sandy ground, women talk about recent changes in their lives in Mabuto village in Zambia’s Western province. “I’m seeing the difference, because now we have enough food for the children, for the families”, says Moya Ndopu, a 41-year-old mother of five. “The seeds grow well; they’re healthier and they look better compared to the ones we had before,” adds Sibuku Mulomboi, a 22-year-old mother of two.

Mabuto was one of the communities selected in Kalabo district for WIN: Women in Innovations, a People in Need funded project promoting diversification of food production and consumption, as well as improving health and hygiene practices of vulnerable households in order to improve their nutrition and strengthen their resilience.

Women are supported to establish innovative models in agriculture, health, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene, and access to markets. “First we get training on agriculture, and then we get seeds,” says Mulomboi. The trainings cover topics like soil and field preparation, irrigation, soil fertility management, crop protection, harvest, seed selection, and storage.

The first products of the new project have been harvested. The women show off the grains that have changed their families’ agricultural production. “The seeds grow faster and there’s a greater yield from the harvest,” says Ndopu.

Enhanced market access and access to financial capital

The PIN team is helping families to produce a larger variety of nutrient-rich crops like cowpea, groundnuts, Bambara nuts, carrot, onion, okra, amaranth, and hibiscus. The goal is to produce enough for both home consumption and to sell at the market.

PIN also trained so called local service providers to better identify priority seeds for farmers, and to analyse costs and quality of inputs available in the market, so farmers can access high quality seeds for affordable prices. In another stage of the project, once farmers are producing enough to sell, these assistants help them with marketing.

Likando Wina, 50, is the local service provider for Mabuto. Selected by the community and trained by PIN, he’s responsible for the linkage between the farmers and the markets. “People are beginning to harvest crops. After we have brought everything together, we’ll take it to the market at once to avoid the several journeys to and from the market and reduce transportation costs,” he explains.

The economic development component of the programme also establishes saving groups to facilitate and enhance access to financial capital and introduce a culture of saving. “With what is being produced, we can sell to the local service providers that will be able to get money back to take the children to school and pay for other expenses,” says Ndopu.

Wina’s wife is also involved in this part of the programme: “She’s one of the keyholders [of the saving box].”

And what about the villagers’ plan for the savings in the future? “After some time, they’ll find that the money is enough to buy things they’ve wanted for a long time. Some will buy more food, or a sofa. They can use it in various ways,” says Likando Wina.

‘Lead farmer’: a model to be reproduced

Households with children under five years old, or households headed by a single woman are a priority for the project, but men’s engagement is also important. The community itself has chosen which families receive technical trainings and agricultural inputs.

“We selected a committee within the community, and that committee, since they know the people, they live with them, they know who are in need, so they can choose those people,” explains the PIN Project Officer in Mabuto.

Some households are selected to be ‘model farmers’ and run the demonstration field where the practical trainings for other families take place. In Mabuto, two of the 27 selected farmers are ‘lead farmers.’ “People are very happy with the model farmers and want to do things in the same way,” says Wina.

Multi-sectorial approach

Together with the nutrition and agriculture activities, the WIN project develops activities aimed at improving health, sanitation, and hygiene practices. PIN builds the capacity of community health volunteers and volunteer health structures in the communities. One of the main objectives is to increase the number of women giving birth in health centres, and to decrease maternal and child mortality and malnutrition.

Volunteers will be also trained to conduct household visits and disseminate information on topics like the prevention of diarrheal diseases, the danger of contamination by chicken and other domestic animal faeces, and the importance of clean living spaces for young children.

All the trainees will continue to use their increased knowledge and capacities to improve conditions in the villages. Nearby communities will be able to access and work with the trained communities, too. Local authorities are involved from the start to help with the programme’s sustainability.

Those directly involved have an eye towards sustainability as well. “I’ll teach others, especially those whom I see that are good enough to be models, so that they’ll help me and help others to continue with the programme,” says Wina. Ndopu agrees: “I hope this project can continue so everyone’s lives can improve.”

Author: Claudia de Oliveira, Zawadi Izabayo and Sitwala Milapo