Better dietary options for healthier children

In rural Malawi, over 16,000 people, including young children, have benefited from ‘Care Groups’ that train people to prepare nutritious meals using local produce.

Mrs Juliana Maliro, third from left, during a cooking demonstration. Photo: MSIDP

Mrs Juliana Maliro, third from left, during a cooking demonstration. Photo: MSIDP

A 2018 integrated survey by the National Statistical Office of Malawi listed Dedza district among those with the highest malnutrition rates in Malawi. Ironically, Dedza is one of the major production hubs for legumes such as beans and groundnut in Malawi. The district is also popular for cereals such as maize, as well as root and tuber crops such as Irish potato. It was noted that many farmers in the district produce most of their crops for sale, using only maize and vegetables for their own consumption.

It is against this background that the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project (MSIDP) consortium started working with smallholder farmer groups in Dedza, to not only help them secure their harvests, but also to introduce them to new feeding systems that would enhance utilization of such crops. In partnership with government’s Nutrition Coordinating Committees, the project adopted the government-approved approach of the ‘Care Group’ model to train communities on different diets that incorporate crops like groundnut and beans in their recipes. In 2019 alone, 16,974 households were reached with nutrition training. This effort has now grown beyond Dedza district to other parts of Malawi.

Mrs Juliana Maliro, 57, from Mpenda village in Dowa district shares an interesting story about her grandson, Robert, who had been in and out of hospitals for the most part of his young life. His parents were told that the boy was constantly sick because he was malnourished. They did not know what to do, as they thought nutritious food was too expensive.

The worried grandmother took Robert into her care and fed him a diet based on a recipe she had learnt from a women’s care group in her village.

“After noticing how dire the situation was, I started feeding my grandson with this new porridge made from maize, beans and groundnut flour, and within a month, I saw a big change.” she beams.

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), through the MSIDP trains care groups on how to prepare nutritious recipes using locally available materials. In Dowa, CIAT collaborates with the Rhema Institute for Development, a nongovernmental organization that serves poor, vulnerable and marginalized communities around Lumbadzi in the district.

Through Rhema Institute, CIAT has trained 18 care group leaders, including Juliana, whose group is called Thandizo, on different food recipes that are based on locally available commodities. Some members of Thandizo have started small-scale businesses selling doughnuts made with recipes that CIAT introduced.

Read more about ICRISAT’s work in Malawi on EXPLOREit.

Project: Malawi Seed Industry Development Project (Phase II) (Phase I: 1 2008 – 2016; Phase II: 2016 – 2021)
Funder: Irish Aid
Partners: The Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS) and the Department of Agricultural Extension Services (DAES), both under the Ministry of Agriculture in Malawi ; The Legumes Development Trust; International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT); and ICRISAT
CGIAR Research Program: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

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