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FAO in Mozambique

FAO- Promoting Appropriate Diets, Nutrition and Health Practices to Improve the Lives of Rural Populations in Mozambique

Juliana, a beneficiary with her baby

The current rates of chronic malnutrition in Mozambique of 43% are a matter of serious concern for the Government. Therefore, the reduction of chronic malnutrition is a top priority of government and constitutes a key objective of government policy.

FAO, with European Union funding under the project "Support to Accelerate Progress towards the Achievement of Millennium Development Goal 1c (MDG1c), is implementing a comprehensive nutrition education and social behavior change communications (SBCC) integrated with home gardens programme in Mozambique. This is aimed promoting appropriate diets and health practices for better nutrition, integrated with promoting increased production of fruits, vegetables and animal food products at the homestead to enhance the potential to address micronutrient deficiencies. This programme is directly contributing to national efforts for the reduction of the very high levels of chronic malnutrition in the country.

In Zambezia province, in the districts of Alto-Molócue and Gurué, more than 10,000 women have benefited from the FAO programme. After about 5 years of implementation of the programme, FAO in partnership with the Zambézia Province Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) held recently a provincial level seminar in Quelimane, Zambezia province, to share the experience, lessons learnt, and best practices of the nutrition education and social behavior change communications (SBCC) integrated with home gardens programme.

This is one of the key exit strategies of the FAO subprogramme, to ensure that government and all stakeholders in the province have a good knowledge of the activities, appreciate the results achieved and promote the capitalization of the experience and lessons learnt in the development and implementation of government plans for improving nutrition in the province.
About 70 people representing senior government personnel from the district and provincial levels, other UN agencies and non-governmental organisations working in the province participated at the seminar.

A healthy baby with 4kg was born within the programme

Beneficiaries of the programme from Alto Molocue district had a chance to participate at this seminar and share their experiences about their involvement as well as life change stories.

Juliana João is a beneficiary mother of three children, she presented a clear example of how the programme has improved her life and that of her family. In her own words she narrated to the seminar participants that:
"Before the programme I had two children who were born with very low birth weights. My mother said I could not go to the hospital for the antenatal clinic because of our tradition and the belief that in the hospital they will operate on me. However, in this programme I learnt how to have good nutrition for pregnant women, children and my family, how to take care of myself during pregnancy and how to care for my baby" she said.

Her son Elton Elcídio, now a year and seven months old, was born when she was participating in this programme, breaking the previous history of low birth weights in the family, Elton was born with 4 kilograms, to the surprise of the parents and the community.

Now he is strong and healthy, he feeds on breast milk and enriched porridge she learned how to prepare under the FAO programme, which has diversified food products: vegetables, groundfish, eggs, groundnuts and other locally available nutritious foods added to it.

"My first children were not well fed because I did not have the knowledge on how to feed them properly and they did not grow well. I would usually feed them dry cassava meal at lunch with some vegetables. I did not provide them the meals as recommended; there was no breakfast and no snacks. I used to serve the food in the one plate and the whole family ate together in the same plate" she said.

"In the programme, I have now learnt that a pregnant woman should have a good nutritious diet, at least three meals that include a food from each of the 4 food groups per day" Juliana explained.

Juliana says that because of the good changes that the programme made to her life and that of her family, her husband also joined her in the sessions where they also learnt about hygiene and sanitation.

"My husband really likes the programme, when I go without preparing the enriched porridge for our son, he reminds me, we go together to the sessions on Tuesdays and we learn together".

Through the Nutrition Education and Home Gardens programme, the mother of little Elcídio is supported by FAO to cultivate diverse crops that helps her to provide diversified diets for her family. She produces maize, orange fleshed sweet potatoes, beans biofortified with iron and zinc, cabbage greens, tomatoes and onions.

The programme is already in its final stretch, but Juliana intends to continue sharing what she has learnt. "We will continue to teach the other mothers in our community, most have already learned the good practices and are already teaching other women".

Multisectoral participation and integration (health, agriculture and education) was a key factor in working with communities

For the implementation of this programme, FAO worked in partnership with the provincial and district Technical Directorates of Agriculture, Health and Education, to ensure government involvement and integration so that the actions could have a greater impact in the communities.

Alfredo Coutinho is a nutrition technician working with the district directorate health services in Alto Molócue district of Zambezia Province; he gave very positive remarks about the programme:
"The strategy followed in the programme is a very good one, to involve and integrate the government, recognizing that we are the ones who work with the community on a day by day basis. Everything done to improve nutrition always ends up impacting well the health of communities ".

Coutinho further emphasized that before working with a community, it is necessary to know their habits and integrate them in a way of negotiating the behavior change with them, to improve the negative and harmful habits. In any new community, it is important to know who the leaders and influential people are, to sensitize them first and get their support and corporation. In that way, it is easy to reach out to and convince the community members.

"It is very important that parents, husbands and grandparents, who are very influential for the adoption of appropriate diets and healthy practices, are always involved and reached with the messages as is being done in this programme", Coutinho concluded.

It is expected that before the end of the programme, scheduled for June 2019, a consensus will be reached in the elaboration of a joint plan between FAO and the Government for the handover of the activities and follow-up actions as well as expansion of the activities to other parts of the country.