A good nutrition-base sets a solid foundation for all aspects of life. Incorporating nutritional education into our primary health care support and agricultural training will be beneficial for strengthening health amongst women and children living in some of Nepal’s most rural communities. These efforts will also play a role in our other areas of work – improved nutrition will improve capacity for learning at school as well as benefit labour productivity. Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is Zero Hunger; our work in Mugu District, Nepal, will make achieving Goal 2 a tangible outcome, whilst also addressing the significance of nutrient-dense foods in achieving universal health coverage (UHC).
Mugu District, in the northern Karnali region, is predominantly rural, meaning that economic opportunities are sparse and communities are being left behind. Livelihoods within communities in the region are focused primarily on agriculture, however food poverty is prevalent with up to 61% of the local population being affected in some communities. Deficits in local produce are often disproportionately skewed to affect women and children the most, which can adversely impact other aspects of life including the ability for children to learn and women to carry out productive livelihoods. Extremely worrying is the high rates of child malnutrition within Mugu.
In April 2018, PHASE began a three-year project funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) with the aim of improving food security and nutritional education for 800 of the most vulnerable families, with a particular focus on women and children. By targeting agricultural methods, techniques and resources, farmers will have access to improved knowledge and the tools necessary to produce a wider range of crops with increased resilience to extreme weather. This approach empowers farmers to lead change within their own communities, resulting in sustainable, long-term agricultural and health benefits.
We are delighted to report that moving past the halfway point of the project, we have already exceeded our target of engaging with 800 community members, with over 1,000 female farmers taking part in or receiving direct help from our training projects. PHASE has supported a diverse range of agricultural training projects in many aspects of farming, ranging from winter and off-season horticulture to improved water efficiency and irrigation techniques. This quarter 156 farm visits have taken place, tailoring agricultural advice to each farmer’s land, resources and needs. We have also supplied necessary resources to some of the most vulnerable farmers in the form of permanent water tanks to ensure irrigation needs are met, as well as carefully selected seeds in order to grow the most productive and nutritious foods dependent on the time of year and type of land available.
As part of this programme of support, 112 polytunnels have been constructed this quarter, enabling farmers to grow a wider range of crops. Furthermore, PHASE has carried out over 50 nutrition awareness events in Mugu, focusing on general nutritional knowledge as well as antenatal and postpartum nutrition. 3 Female Community Health Volunteer training events have taken place, strengthening the local framework for health dissemination and advice. 678 individuals have been reached through door-to-door health educational visits, reaching members of the community who may otherwise struggle to access events due to mobility, time or child-caring commitments. A further 472 individuals attended health education classes in the community.
Given the rural and remote nature of communities in the Mugu District, these current measures place communities on the path to building independence and security in terms of food and nutrition. Tackling malnutrition from multiple angles is vital to ensure its limitation – empowering communities to have the tools and resources to produce nutrient-dense foods, partnered with the knowledge of the benefits of producing certain crops will result in longer-lasting outcomes.
Moving into the final stages of the project, we aim to not only reach more vulnerable people but also support vital follow-up work and services to communities we’ve already operated within. We will also continue to target our projects towards women and children so that our work reaches those who need it most.