Haiti’s "Mamans Lumières" cast a light over the shadow of malnutrition

In Haiti's Grand'Anse Department, FAO is promoting nutrition awareness among women through education initiatives and community gardens.

Mamans Lumières from the municipality of Moron teach other local mothers about healthy child nutrition [FAO/C. Deligia]

In the municipality of Moron, situated in the isolated Grand'Anse Department of Haiti, a group of women are making their way towards their shared community garden – a space that has been set up with the help of FAO and its partners, including the French NGO Médecins du Monde, the German Red Cross and various local NGOs.

The community garden has become a neighborhood hub -- buzzing with activity -- where the women farm together, but also regularly attend classes, workshops and practical trainings on how to make informed nutritional choices and improve their production of crops and small livestock.

They are amiably referred to as “mamans lumiéres” by the project staff, a French term meaning “light mothers”, because of their willingness to impart any newly acquired knowledge to other women in their community, thus activating a positive ripple effect that has helped to abate child malnutrition in this remote rural area.

“When I was raising my eldest children, I knew very little about healthy eating habits. I wasn’t aware of the nutritional value of mangoes, gombo or amaranth – nor of how to make the best use of them to feed my children. As a result, they would often fall ill and need to see a doctor,” says a mother of ten, who is still breastfeeding her lastborn.

“Now, I really see the difference with my youngest children. They have benefited so much from all I’ve learned through this project and the results are noticeable: they are growing much faster and much stronger.”

“Sharing our skills with other mothers was only a natural response for many of us,” she adds. Thanks to the sale of surplus vegetables and fruits from her garden, she has also saved enough money to invest in raising chickens.

Now, in nine out of the twelve municipalities in Grand'Anse where FAO is implementing the project, groups of “mamans lumières” have began sharing their insights on food groups and their benefits with neighbours through music and songs.

After the 2010 earthquake, the Grand'Anse area of Haiti absorbed an estimated 120,000 refugees from the worst-struck areas in the country, and was itself heavily affected by hurricanes and cholera in 2010 and 2011. Over the last two years, FAO has assisted more than 5000 families in both rural and urban settings to learn about nutrition, improve their farming techniques and diversify their livelihood options.

This year, interventions have been extended to some additional 2000 families, with the same objective of  strengthening their resilience to future crises, be they natural or man-made.