Since early 2018, PHASE has been delivering a three-year DFID funded project in Mugu, aimed at reducing the high levels of malnutrition prevalent in the region, particularly amongst children. The project has recently concluded its second year, which has given us the opportunity to reflect on both the progress and success of the project so far, as well as look forward at what we hope to achieve moving into our third and final year.
Over the last year, significant steps have been made in reducing the prevalence of malnutrition amongst children in Mugu. The percentage of children within our project areas in Mugu suffering from at least one form of malnutrition has decreased from 71.4% in 2018 to 64% at the beginning of 2020 (midline sample). The reduced percentage of children identified as malnourished (Global Acute Malnutrition, GAM) defined by MUAC <12.5 cm, in our project areas, was 10.2% (17.4% to 7.2%). PHASE has delivered workshops to improve knowledge, attitude, and practice of mothers on the importance of nutritional foods, for both their own health and that of their children. As a result, over 84% of mothers are now using super flour (a nutritious, powdered mix of roasted cereals and beans) mixed with hot milk (or water) as weaning food for their children.
PHASE workshops have facilitated the sharing of agricultural skills and techniques between community members, enabling farmers to produce more fruitful and nutritious crops. For example, with the knowledge and resources to use polytunnels, farmers are now able to grow crops all year round, despite changing climates. Initially, the project aimed to directly support at least 800 families, however, we have now been able to extend our support to reach 1,024 families. In addition to this, 887 opinion leaders (individuals with a strong influence within their community) have been involved in meetings to spread awareness in the production, preparation, and consumption of nutritious food for women and children.
Malnutrition is a multi-dimensional issue requiring a multi-dimensional response. We believe that by integrating nutritional education, agricultural training, and social awareness, it is possible to make healthy diets more accessible, leading to long-term and sustainable improvements in nutrition across Mugu. Govinda Bista, a farmer and mothers’ group member, shares her experience from the project:
“We have learned how to grow vegetables, to keep our houses hygienic and clean, and how to keep our children healthy. Most of all, we have learned to stand up and do things by ourselves without having to rely on our husbands for money. We have a better voice and hold better positions within our families.”
The past year has also seen an expansion to our mushroom farming initiative, alongside improvements to irrigation facilities. We have overseen the construction of two water harvest ponds (one 40,000-litre and another 30,000-litre capacity) as well as the installation of ten sets of 500-litre water tanks. These measures will enable farmers to improve crop irrigation all year round. PHASE has continued to support the organisation of the Haat Bazar (weekly market) where farmers can sell excess produce for profit whilst helping to develop the local economy.
Sanja, from Sorukut, discusses her local Haat Bazar: “Vegetables for me, are like a currency, that I generate at my farm and trade in the market. I am happy that this PHASE project has enabled me to do this. Everybody looks forward to the market day at Sorukot. It is like a festival”.
Moving into the final year of the project, we aim to improve upon the successes we have already seen. Particularly, we will aim to increase diet diversity and encourage more mothers to practice breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months. These measures, among others, will be important in continuing our progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger.