Photos and story by Tanja Kisslinger (Knowledge Translation & Public Engagement Officer with CARE Canada’s Global Health team)
Sitting under a mango tree in a small, rural community in Mozambique this past November, I began to truly appreciate the meaning of lasting change… I had traveled to Mozambique and Zambia to report on CARE’s Southern African Nutrition Initiative (SANI), which aims to provide women, families, and health providers with the tools they need to end malnutrition in children under five and in women of reproductive age. The project is still in its early stages, but we are learning a lot from other projects in the area, as well as the experience of CARE’s incredible Country Office staff.
My first field visit was to the Machava community in Mozambique, where I witnessed a Farmer Field School orientation. These “schools” are the means by which the project will implement home gardens, seed banks and more. They promote learning and knowledge amongst families and community members, rather than just handing out tools and seeds. This is the beginning of lasting change.
In Mozambique, I also visited the Inhapupo community, where people once again gathered under a mango tree, awaiting CARE facilitators. I am amazed (though not surprised) by the commitment of the local communities to these kinds of initiatives. To see groups of people come from a distance and sit together for an hour to participate in a voluntary project is truly impressive. It reinforces the degree of community interest in, and dedication to, CARE’s work in the area.
After greetings, the CARE facilitators explained the importance and purpose of Farmer Field Schools – to promote learning and knowledge within families and communities. They covered the effects of climate change on farming practices in Mozambique, and the importance of learning new methods. They also stressed that the SANI project is about sustainability of the new farming practices – once again ensuring lasting change.
After leaving Mozambique, I traveled onward to Zambia and visited Kawama village to document their “demo gardens” (i.e. models for future home gardens) and Growth Monitoring and Promotion Centers. These centers provide prenatal care, infant growth monitoring, maternal health education, and education to prevent malaria and diarrhea.
In Kawama, one community health worker noted that parents do not always know proper feeding practices for their babies – sometimes feeding them only once per day. So, the parents and families come to the centre to learn about nutrition, to learn healthy recipes made of local ingredients, and to measure and record the growth of their infants. The project will use both community gardens and Growth Monitoring and Promotion Centers with trained workers and volunteers to improve nutrition amongst communities and to distribute that knowledge.
In fact, at the Kawama Center, I also witnessed a cooking demonstration. Two trained volunteers were able to explain why certain local foods are chosen for the meals and the nutrition benefits of these foods. These two women will actively work to pass on what they have learned.
In the village of Chobela, I was greeted by Maggie – the “headwoman” of the community. She showed me the plants, the garden progress, and the new “treadle pump” (for improved garden irrigation), which was provided through the project. Pumpkins and green beans had been planted by the community in October, using their own seeds. The seeds the community received as part of the project were planted just a week prior. Ultimately, the seedlings and vines from this plot will be distributed to all household gardens. The Chobela plot has 60 members, from six villages including six lead farmers – four of which are women.
When I asked the community what progress they expected to see from the project, they shared: “We expect to see the change in the growth of our children.” Overall, my journey through Mozambique and Zambia on this trip showed that CARE’s project is well underway, and an essential foundation is being laid for lasting change in these remote, yet vibrant villages.