January 17, 2015
United States Acting Ambassador to Malawi Michael Gonzales and a team from the U.S. Embassy and Malawi Mission of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recently visited the Feed the Future Integrating Nutrition in Value Chains (FtF-INVC) project.
While visiting the Chitekwere Group Action Committee in Lilongwe District, Gonzales saw how FtF-INVC is helping boost the incomes of smallholder farmers through better agricultural practices, as well as enhancing household nutrition by improving awareness and habits. For example, the visitors saw improvements in the way that farmers grow legumes such as soybean and pigeon peas by using methods such as double-row planting with optimum spacing. These improvements are being made through better collaboration between the National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi, local farmers in Group Action Committees, and others. One farmer told Gonzales that a typical area might yield 150 kilograms of legume grain during a growing season, but enhanced planting and improved cultivation learned through FtF-INVC now often result in a yield of around 600 kilograms.
The visitors also walked to the village center to see evidence—such as kitchen gardens and more fuel-efficient stoves—of new nutrition-related techniques introduced through the FtF-INVC Care Group Model implemented by project partner Nkhoma Hospital. Hospital Medical Director Dr. Ray Ter Haar said his facility has witnessed and recorded changes in the community, for example: reduced child under-nutrition, better standards of maternal and child health, and greatly reduced rates of maternal deaths. Dr. Ter Haar praised the work and enthusiasm of the volunteers in the Group Action Committees.
Finally, the visitors met local community volunteer Eric Mwale, who demonstrated a care group meeting that he conducts to train “lead mothers,” who then pass on the ideas, tools, and techniques for nutrition and farming to individual households via peer-to-peer coaching. A short theatre performance emphasized the powerful role that drama can play in bringing messages to the villages and reinforcing information that is broadcast through radio and text messages.
“I am excited to see that farmers in Chitekwere are now planting more legumes because they recognize their importance not only as a cash crop, but also as a source of nutritious food for their families,” Gonzales said. “Not only are they diversifying their incomes and diets, but the new planting techniques will also increase farmers’yields of soy, groundnut, and pigeon pea. I hope the work INVC is carrying out here, with support from the United States, lays the foundation for long-term improvement in livelihoods and in the health of young children and mothers in Chitekwere.”
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