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Around the world, women and young children bear the highest burden of undernutrition. The promotion of behaviors such as egg production and consumption for dietary diversification is a cost-effective and sustainable initiative to improve nutritional status in vulnerable groups. Chicken/duck-rearing and egg production can offer an additional source of household income, providing families with more resources to mitigate the effects of poverty and food insecurity.
As part of an innovative approach to substantially and sustainably improve nutritional outcomes for mothers and children, CARE implemented the Nutrition at the Center ([email protected]) project, a five-year global intervention aimed at reducing anemia in girls and women (ages 15-49) and stunting and anemia in infants and young children (0-23 months) by integrating maternal, infant, and young child nutrition (MIYCN); water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); food security; and women’s empowerment. Complementary programs in three of the four [email protected] countries – Bangladesh, Benin, and Ethiopia – focused specifically on homestead gardening, poultry-rearing, and egg production, with the goal of increasing egg consumption to improve dietary diversity and the overall nutritional status of mothers and children.
Key strategies to increase demand for eggs included: 1) utilization of improved chicken breeds and varieties that are resistant to disease and have higher egg yield, 2) utilization of low-cost, locally available chicken production systems combined with adequate disease control and health programs through supervision of agricultural extension service experts, 3) facilitation of cooking demonstrations to share new and locally acceptable recipes including eggs; and 4) advocacy for social behavior change in communities with existing taboos about egg consumption. Preliminary program end-line results indicate substantial improvements in dietary diversity among women and children in CARE’s intervention areas, as well as increased egg consumption:
In Ethiopia, [email protected] provided 1,000 resource-poor households with Bovans Brown layer chickens – a highly productive hardy breed – and monitored rearing practices with the help of agricultural extension service experts. Among members of 100 randomly selected households, 57% of children 6-23 months old reportedly consumed more than 4 eggs per week versus 7% at baseline, and 72% of lactating women versus 6% at baseline.
[email protected]: Homegrown, in Bangladesh, saw an increase in women’s egg consumption by 46 percentage points and nearly 60 percentage points (to 83.1% from 23.6%) with minimum dietary diversity; with the proportion of young children (6-23 months) having increased 51 percentage points and to 89.1% (from 32.6%) respectively. This was following the distribution of ducks to 3,000 of the poorest households in the intervention and provided trainings, through Farmers Nutrition Groups, on duck-rearing, homestead farming, maternal and child nutrition, and other pertinent topics.
In Benin, the combination of nutrition education and behavior change with the promotion of animal source food consumption produced positive results in almost all nutritional indicators among women and children with increased household dietary diversity, and the number of families feeding their children animal-sourced foods doubled. Most notably, findings showed that stunting among children increased by 5% in control sites, while program sites showed a 5% reduction in stunting rates indicating that the program activities, such as the promotion poultry raising, may be attributable to stunting prevention.
Overall, these encouraging results indicate that promoting egg consumption and building the capacity of households to rear egg-producing animals can have a significant impact on improving dietary diversity, and ultimately, the nutritional status of vulnerable women and children.
Mme Colleen Farrell
Climate change is making it more difficult for people in the developing world to escape poverty and protect the natural resources they rely on for food and income. At the same time, tradition keeps too many women from fully participating in the development of their communities and the conservation of biodiversity.
In Mozambique and Tanzania, the CARE- WWF Alliance works with women and men in farming and fishing communities, their governments, and private sector partners to develop more just and sustainable food systems; with the strategy of empowering the poorest and most vulnerable women and their communities to (1) manage natural resources and adapt to climate change in ways that pull them out of poverty, and (2) shape local policies and institutions to promote sustainable development and ensure the conservation of biodiversity.
Capacity building is a common approach to promoting best practice adoption in both conservation and development sectors. CARE’s approach to Farmer Field and Business Schools (FFBS), prioritizing gender and equity, in Tanzania reaffirms the power of demonstration and illustrates how Training of Trainers (TOT) can accelerate uptake in a wider geography.
The Alliance’s 2016 baseline assessment in Nachingwea showed that fewer than one-third of farmers practiced even one climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technique. Rather, farmers still practiced traditional slash and burn agriculture to regularly open new fields and prepare the soil for production.
Yet competition for scarce, fertile land and our changing climate make this approach increasingly unsustainable—and even more so for women. Through Alliance FFBSs, farmers learn techniques like the use of crop rotation and improved seeds that are more tolerant to variable rainfall and diseases — that reduce the frequency with which farmers need to open new land while also producing higher yields. In the 2018 season, farmers adopting CSA practices and seeds on their own plots increased sesame production by more than half compared to those using traditional practices and local seeds harvested.
The Alliance has multiplied FFBS impact through TOT at two levels. The Alliance employs a TOT methodology to train both government extension agents and community paraprofessionals to facilitate day-to-day CSA mentoring and FFBS activities with community members. As the learning brief “Effective strategies for improving policy implementation and law enforcement at the community and district levels in Tanzania” explores in greater detail, a 2017 TOT for Nachingwea District Agricultural Officials and Ward Extension Officers also underlines how training influencers, in particular, can create the enabling conditions for wider best practice adoption.
In short, the FFBS model successfully simultaneously empowers women farmers and promotes adoption of CSA because it gives risk-averse farmers a low-risk environment in which to experiment. Through learning-by- doing, FFBS members both build their capacity for technical best practice and collective action. Importantly, through their collective labor, they also witness the tangible benefits of new approaches relative to traditional ones. Moreover, training others to implement the FFBS curriculum or to otherwise promote CSA increases the number of people who learn about CSA.
For another example of CARE-WWF Alliance strategies for empowering marginalized groups and addressing gender inequalities, please reference “A rights-based approach to community conservation” learning brief focusing on the Hariyo Ban project in Nepal.