Women-Led Food Security and Nutrition
Directly targeting 378 vulnerable households in nine rural communities, CPAR’s Women-Led Food Security and Nutrition Project is designed to build resilient rural communities that can achieve and maintain year-round household food security, diversified livelihoods, and improved household nutritional status.
This project has been built using the Farmer Field School model. Farmer Field Schools are farmer-led ‘schools without walls’ that leverage the knowledge and experience of farmers, enabling them to experiment together and adapt farming methods to suit their own unique and often fragile ecosystems. The Farmer Field School approach allows CPAR to address the rights and needs of food producers within a larger context. In keeping with its commitment to strengthening the position of women and promoting gender equality in all of its work, CPAR encourages female participation and leadership, and promotes a ‘special topics’ component within its Farmer Field School curriculum. Special topics are chosen by the communities themselves to address specific socio-cultural issues such as gender dynamics, human rights, HIV and malaria prevention.
Through farmer observation and the sharing of both knowledge and agricultural inputs such as improved seeds and livestock, this project is expected to achieve a much greater reach, benefiting over 750 households.
Why this project is important
Food insecurity and malnutrition are major barriers to development in the Dibate district of Ethiopia. 85 per cent of the population is vulnerable to food shortages, particularly among the indigenous Gumuz population. The region is rich in natural resources, yet the population is facing challenges such as crop and livestock diseases, a lack of skilled human resources, and limited or no access to market linkages. To cope, many people reduce their daily food intake, while others in the area rely on finding forest foods and hunting wild animals, or collecting and selling firewood.
The prevalence of malnutrition in Dibate is demonstrated by the high percentage of children ages six to 36 months whose growth is stunted (40 per cent) and who are underweight (35 per cent). Over 40 per cent of children are acutely malnourished and half the population suffers from anemia. Gumuz families eat only twice a day and consequently women are often too physically weak to engage in productive agricultural activities.
Project activities and expected outcomes
Increased agricultural productivity: Seven Farmer Field Schools are focusing on crop production using Conservation Agriculture. Improved seeds, tools and new nutritious crop varieties are being introduced. The tree nursery that has been established will supply over 300,000 seedlings, to be planted in target villages. Community workshops and soil and water conservation campaigns are educating community members on Natural Resource Management. CPAR is also promoting the use of energy-saving stoves – compared to traditional cooking methods, they use one-third the amount of firewood.
Increased income through income-generating enterprises: Fourteen Farmer Field school groups are concentrating on income-generating activities through enterprises such as livestock husbandry (poultry, small ruminants and beekeeping), vegetable gardening and bamboo production (bamboo grows well in Dibate and there is considerable demand for bamboo products). Project participants are learning basic business skills such as price setting and budgeting and they are members of Village Community Banking groups so they can borrow money to fund business development. CPAR is also providing training on the construction of improved post-harvest storage facilities.
Improved nutritional status among FFS member households: FFS members promote locally available nutritious foods and demonstrate optimum methods of food preparation for preserving nutrients. Mothers are encouraged to increase the frequency of meals - especially for young children. The education component tackles cultural taboos that prohibit the consumption of certain nutritious foods (such as eggs), as well as hygiene and sanitation practices, including critical times for hand washing, to improve overall household health.