Diversifying diets to address malnutrition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

How cooking demonstrations are giving communities solutions to malnutrition

Cooking demonstrations at the Tshudi Health Centre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are helping mothers provide their children with healthy diets. ©FAO/Serge Ramazani


Deep in the equatorial forest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Iyenze family grows fresh vegetables in their garden. Georgette, mother of eight, prepares a porridge made from maize, soy, papaya and amaranth for her children to give them more of the nutrients they need; they have been suffering from severe malnutrition.

An intercommunal conflict had forced Georgette and her children to live in a forest camp for three months. After they moved back to her village of Pelenge in the Sankuru province, three of her eight children were severely malnourished. Poor sanitation and limited access to nutritious food had affected their health.

“When we got back to the village, my two-year-old son, Bokila, was very weak. His arms, legs and face had swelled a lot,” says Georgette. “We were desperate and we didn’t know where to find help.”

The Iyenzes are one of the many rural families that the FAO project, co-funded by the European Union and the Government of Belgium, is now supporting. In the Sankuru province, the project is helping to reduce the food insecurity and malnutrition of pregnant and lactating women, as well as children under five.

In order to address malnutrition effectively, the project relied on the support of the community in order to conduct home-based screenings of children. This is how the project’s nutritionist guided Georgette’s son, Bokila, to the Tshudi-Loto general hospital for medical care.

Now Georgette goes to the Tshudi Health Centre twice a week to participate in the cooking demonstration sessions organized by FAO, the centre’s medical team and a local NGO, Coeur de Compassion. There she learns how to cook nutritious recipes made from local ingredients and to create a healthy diet for her children.

Each household has also received a vegetable kit (composed of a shovel, a rake, a watering can and vegetable seeds) to facilitate growing vegetables, thus improving the nutritional value of their meals.

Left: FAO helps mothers’ groups learn good nutritional practices. Right: As part of the FAO project, each household received a vegetable kit to help families diversify their diets. Photos: ©FAO/Serge Ramazani

So far, the Health Centre has treated 220 children suffering from malnutrition in the Tshudi-Loto region. Thanks to nutrition training developed by FAO, 32 children are no longer malnourished.

Ensuring children receive adequate nutrition in their first 1 000 days helps strengthen food security in the future. ©FAO/Catherine Claude

"I am happy to participate in these cooking demonstrations. Before, we only ate wild meat and cassava flour," explains Georgette. "Now I can cook different meals every day, and I can see the improvement in my children's health."

By supporting children’s health from their first 1 000 days of life, FAO is sustainably strengthening the food security and nutrition of future generations and helping to achieve #ZeroHunger.

Learn more

2. Zero hunger, 3. Good health and well-being