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Working with women in Ethiopia to end poor nutrition

25 November 2013

Working with women in Ethiopia to end poor nutrition

It’s a shocking fact that 1 in 4 people in sub-Saharan Africa will go to bed hungry tonight.

The consequences of hunger are devastating. Poor nutrition kills over three million children every year, and one in three children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa are so malnourished that they will never reach their full physical and cognitive potential.

This human cost is truly appalling. But malnutrition also has a high financial cost – a staggering $3.5 trillion each year – through lost productivity and direct health care costs.

Food parcels save lives, but they’re a short-term solution. Our goal is to end hunger for good. We provide Africa’s smallholder farmers with the tools, seeds and skills they need to produce enough food for their families, today and every day.

Working with women

Women are key caretakers of household food security. Women produce food, manage natural resources and earn income to support their families alongside men. But they are also largely responsible for preparing meals, rationing food and caring for their children’s health. For widows the burden is even greater.

Helping women farmers to boost their productivity can generate improvements in child nutrition and overall welfare. But many women struggle to access land, resources and training. Interventions that focus on the needs and opportunities of women not only help to bridge the gap but are likely to have the greatest impact.

It is important that farming projects not only generate cash income, but also yield foodstuffs that can contribute to a balanced diet for mothers and children, ending the cycle of hunger and malnutrition.

Nutrition in action

Our work in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, is one example of how well this approach can work. Despite pockets of urban growth, rural poverty and malnutrition in Tigray region remain stubbornly high.

About 80% of the population live in rural areas, and the majority are subsistence farmers. On average they produce less than half of the minimum amount of food they need to be healthy. The nutritional status of women in this region is worse than the national average and maternal malnutrition is a serious public health problem.

Farm Africa’s dairy goat project in Tigray was set up to address these ongoing problems. It is cited by the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation as an excellent example of how strengthening women farmers’ animal husbandry skills can enhance the intake of ‘micronutrients’ which are essential for good health.

The project increased incomes and family milk consumption by raising the productivity of local goats, leading to a considerable improvement in nutritional status and family welfare.

Changing lives

Before joining Farm Africa’s project in Tigray, Zemansh and her family had no assets or resources and worked as labourers to get some money to buy food. They were lucky to eat one meal a day.

Ascalu and her childrenFarm Africa provided Zemansh with two goats and training in goat management and breeding.  She was able to sell the kids for an excellent price because they were cross-bred and produced more milk than other breeds. She can now provide three meals a day for her family and rent land to grow crops.

Viewed in the long term, the results of these interventions are even more dramatic: 15 years ago, Ascalu received goats from Farm Africa. Since then she has transformed her family’s life completely. Before, Ascalu lived on a small plot of land that was steeply sloping and had poor soil.  She struggled daily to feed her family and could not see how she could ever improve their prospects.  But her goat business has been so successful that not only is she able to provide milk, eggs and vegetables for her family, she has even been able to buy a cow and an ox for her daughter.

Every day we help smallholder farmers like Zemansh and Ascalu to move from subsistence to self reliance, building their business skills so that they can get a better price for their produce and giving them the confidence to plan for the future.

Make a difference, twice

UK Aid LogoBy giving a gift to our appeal today, you could help provide a woman like Zemansh or Ascalu with three goats and the training she needs to breed and care for them. 

And for a limited time the UK government will match every pound you give, so your gift will go twice as far. Please support our appeal today. 

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