The Government of Malawi is working with ICRISAT, CIAT and the Malawi Seed Industry Development Project (MSIDP II) to increase the utilization of legumes and cereals as a means of reducing malnutrition and stunting in women, children and other vulnerable groups in the country. Over 7500 farmers have so far obtained training on processing and consumption of these foods since the start of MSIDP II in 2016.
Adopting a multi-institutional approach, the Nutrition division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development (MOAIWD) is enlisting the existing infrastructure – Nutrition Coordinating Committees at the national, district, area and village levels along with the other institutions. In six districts – Dedza, Ntchisi, Mchinji, Lilongwe, Mzimba and Balaka – interventions are carried out through a ‘care group’ model involving community leaders in a ‘trickle-down’ methodology.
Smallholder farmers, organized into clusters of 10–15 members, are led by cluster leaders selected from within the communities. These leaders receive training regarding the importance of balanced meals with six food groups (grains, meat, fruits, vegetables, oils and legumes) and how to prepare them using dryland cereals and legumes that are part of MSIDP II. They then pass on their learning to the farmers in their group.
According to the latest Integrated Household Survey (IHS4) report released in 2018, over 35% of Malawians are malnourished. To tackle this issue, MSIDP II has intensified efforts to enhance consumption of agricultural produce among the local populace, with a focus on food processing and utilization.
Working in collaboration with government nutrition officers, the Project conducts demonstrations of cooking nutritious recipes made with legumes, cereals and other locally grown produce. Also, farmers are educated about the negative effects of aflatoxin on their health and finances, and trained to prevent aflatoxin contamination before, during and after harvest of their farm produce.
About 7% of households in the project’s target areas are already practicing aflatoxin mitigation strategies being promoted by the project. A total of 7557 smallholder farmers have benefited from these interventions already, with many more poised to learn and teach others, expanding the circle of information and awareness about health and nutrition.