Nutrition comes from gardens

How women in Mozambique are combatting chronic malnutrition

Women learn about good nutrition practices in a FAO-sponsored training. ©FAO/Telcínia dos Santos


Women and children, especially pregnant women and children 0-2 years of age, are among the groups most vulnerable to food insecurity and chronic malnutrition. This is no different in Mozambique where, according to the FAO Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition 35% of the population is food insecure and 43% of children under 5 are chronically malnourished.

Chronic undernutrition levels are particularly critical in northern Mozambique, which is why women in the province of Zambezia are campaigning against this issue.

Rosita Francisco Mocole is what the programme calls a “care mother”.  She was chosen to take part in a FAO training and then given the responsibility to share what she learned with her community. She belongs to a farmer group that consists of 12 women in the locality of Namite; twice a week they share their knowledge about nutrition and home gardening. 

"We are learning about good nutrition practices and home gardening. We have farms where we produce food for our children. Through these lessons we already know that we all, but especially pregnant women and children, need to have at least 3 different meals per day," she says.

For the home gardening component of the programme, Rosita says that her group of women produce crops such as cabbage, butter beans, tomatoes, sweet potato, onion and garlic. She has also learned how to use manure to fertilize plants.

Left: Rosita (in the orange t-shirt) shares what she learned in a FAO training with the other women in her community. ©FAO/Telcínia dos Santos; Right: Mothers from the programme learning how to prepare organic manure for the home gardens. ©FAO/Telcínia dos Santos

In rural communities, it is common for two or more children to split one plate of food. Rosita, who is the mother of three children, explains that she learned from the programme to change this type of behaviour.

During an interview, she describes how knowledge from the FAO programme has changed her eating habits and her family’s too:

"I used to make porridge for my children with only flour and sugar, but now I know we can make enriched porridge with other products or produce from our home gardens because nutrition comes from gardens," she adds.

Women in Zambézia province promote nutritional education to improve their children’s and their own health ©FAO/Telcínia dos Santos

Families fight malnutrition

In the town of Machilone, northern Zambezia province, Arminda Nipewe has been part of the FAO programme since March 2017.

Arminda takes care of her grandchildren, including two twins, who lost their mother postpartum. She helps other beneficiary mothers of the programme to have better nutritional habits and provide care for children from 0-5 years old.

"In the programme we are taught to take care of the small children. They have to eat enriched porridge," she says.

Arminda believes that her friends and neighbours should also join the programme or at least seek to know how to take better care of their children.

Entire communities changing behaviours

Ruth Butao Ayoade, who is responsible for the programme’s nutrition education and home gardening components, explains, "Communities have been reacting positively to the programme and more women, including their husbands, have shown keen interest in participating in the sessions, but the most important thing is the behaviour change in the communities and that the lessons are implemented in their homes, " she said.

“The most important thing is that there is a change of behaviour in the communities.” - Ruth Butao Ayoade

It is through these actions that FAO in Mozambique, funded by the European Union, has been contributing to the development of communities where the population struggles daily to have basic food and improve their food and nutritional security.

The programme integrates nutrition education with home gardens so that communities can produce in their own homes what they need to have a healthy diet.

Through this intervention, the total number of beneficiaries is expected to be around 30 000  mothers from 7 districts in three provinces, namely Zambezia, Manica and Sofala, which have high rates of chronic malnutrition.

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2. Zero hunger, 5. Gender equality