The district of Mugu borders the Humla district, in the northern region of the Karnali province. Much of the eastern region of Mugu is isolated from any road networks, making it one of the most remote areas of Nepal. As a result, 93% of the population of Mugu rely heavily on agricultural production, not only for their primary source of income, but also for their primary source of food supply. Food poverty is an important indicator for livelihoods in Mugu, and with up to 61% food poverty in some villages, the lack of local agricultural produce is a significant challenge and strain on the daily survival of people in Mugu.
A consequence of insufficient agricultural production is that many people in these communities, mainly women and children, suffer from one form of malnutrition. Since March 2018, PHASE has been delivering a FCDO UK Aid Direct funded project in Mugu aiming to address the underlying causes of malnutrition in the region. As the project enters its third and final year, we are able to assess the progress and success of the project so far, along with what we are hoping to achieve throughout the remaining months.
The number of people involved in the project remains at 1,024, far surpassing our initial target of 800 people. Those enrolled on the project have taken part in various training and education programmes which seek to improve knowledge and awareness of better nutrition and farming practices. As a result of these workshops and activities, farmers involved in the project were able to report a significant increase in production. New techniques aimed at increasing agricultural yields, specifically through mushroom cultivation, have enabled farmers to diversify their crop production and continue to produce food throughout the warmer months. As the season begins to change and temperatures start to cool, the project will provide and distribute the equipment and materials necessary to resume vegetable farming, through utilising off-seasonal polytunnel methods. These techniques will equip people with the skills to produce healthy food all year round.
Between July and September, both men and women took part in health education workshops and activities, which improved awareness of good nutrition, especially within children. The project provided training in personal hygiene, sanitation, and maternal and child health care practices. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the project was adapted to ensure the safety of all involved. Group numbers were limited, and knowledge was instead transferred through home visits and Mothers Groups, ensuring that vulnerable children and pregnant and post-natal women could still be involved. In addition, training was still provided to those who visited the PHASE health clinics, which continue to provide support throughout this difficult time. The Covid-19 pandemic will continue to impact the delivery of this project, however we hope to cautiously conduct nutrition and health training over the next quarter, whilst ensuring the safety of those involved remains our highest priority.
The ongoing aim of this project is to provide each person who takes part with the necessary knowledge to peer mentor other household members and empower their wider community, enabling them to continue implementing these teachings long after the project comes to an end. In order to have a sustainable and long-lasting impact on the communities involved, it was crucial that awareness of how to limit the spread of Covid-19 was increased. As a result, infection prevention training was provided for 77 Female Community Health Volunteers (FCHVs), to ensure that they can continue to perform their regular tasks of meeting and teaching people, even throughout the ongoing pandemic.
This project has been successful in providing people with the skills and knowledge of how to produce nutrient-rich food all year round, whilst ensuring that every person involved is aware of the importance of good personal hygiene and sanitation. It is an uncertain time for many people living across Nepal, however we are confident that we can continue to safely support communities in Mugu and are optimistic for the third and final year of this exciting project.
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