In Malawi more than 85% of the population consists of rural, predominantly subsistence farmers, nearly 60% of which experience year round food insecurity. While many measures of food security consider only availability of the staple crop, maize, indicators of malnutrition are equally important in determining the overall health and wellness of a population.

Carolyne teaching about the 6 food groups

Carolyne teaching about the 6 food groups

In rural areas, 4% of children are wasted, 13% are underweight, and 48% are stunted. Despite the fact that dark leafy greens, rich in iron are easy to grow and culturally common in Malawi, 64% of children suffer from anemia, as do nearly 38% of pregnant women. Last March, Kusamala contributed to an article in the Guardian online that discussed the merits of permaculture in combatting malnutrition at the household level. Building on that idea, we are integrating nutrition education into many of our outreach projects.

Our JANEEMO project promotes agroforestry and permaculture for improved livelihoods and food security, focusing on jatropha, neem, faedherbia, and moringa trees. Moringa trees in particular are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A. While many of our project participants expressed particular interest in growing moringa for household consumption and sale, many also wanted to learn more about it’s preparation, storage, and general nutrition education.

Responding to these expressed community needs, last week we organized two three-day nutrition trainings in our JANEEMO project communities in Dowa. The trainings were held in Kachitsa and Mdela villages and each hosted seventeen participants, almost all of which were women.

DSCN2958-001The three days covered an introduction to food and nutrition, the six food groups, food and hygiene, nutrition and health, including nutrition food for childhood and pregnant women. The course included hands-on cooking demonstrations using ingredients that were common and locally available. Throughout the training Carolyne Ngwira, the course instructor, focused on the nutritional value, uses, and preparation of moringa.

At the end of the course the participants were excited by what they had learned and expressed an interest in further trainings. In particular, they have requested similar trainings after the harvest, when food in the villages is more available and diverse.

With the success of this training we hope to continue integrating nutrition education throughout our agriculture projects, remembering the important link between crop and diet diversity.