Nutrition, agro-ecology project relieves villagers from poverty trap

21May 2019
Beatrice Philemon
SINGIDA
The Guardian
Nutrition, agro-ecology project relieves villagers from poverty trap

ASHA Ramadhani one of villagers in Ntondo village, Singida Rural District who have benefited from a three-year project known as Singida Nutrition and Agro-ecology Project (SNAP).

The project was established in the district to promote agro-ecology and gender equality involving women famers, promote food security and enhance women’s role at household and community level.

Implemented in 20 villages in Singida district, SNAP is coordinated by ActionAid Tanzania with support from US-based McKnight Foundation.

For Asha, who is a mother of four, SNAP is an eye-opener in her life. Through the project she is able to feed her family, pay school fees for her children, built modern house (by village standards).

After attending several training on the project, Asha is now able to train other villagers on agro-ecological farming, gender equality and nutrition issues. She also trains other women on how to cook nutritious foods for children from six months to 2 years to reduce stunting rates and malnutrition among children at home.

“I’m thankful for the SNAP project; right now, I can make a wide range of nutritious food including making Bajia snacks from cowpeas, soybeans, pigeon pea, and other crops and sell it in different schools within the village to raise income and help people improve their nutrition status something which wasn’t the case in the past,” a 34-year-old woman says, adding:

“The money I get from selling bajia snacks and agro ecological farming activities, I used to build a modern house, four cows, ox plough for agro ecological farming and paying school fees for my children.”

In her 6 acres of land, Asha grows bambara nuts, sorghum, maize, ground nuts, pigeon pea, and cowpeas for domestic and commercial use.

Asha is among thousands of farmers in the district who are benefiting from the project, which provided room for villagers to engage in agro-ecology farming.

Apart from engaging in business, and farming, Asha has managed to set up a women’s group that comprise 30 women at Ntondo village and train them on how to keep their environment clean and all issues related to nutrition.

“I have decided to train them on environmental issues after discovering that majority of women in the village were not cleaning their houses, something which contributed to diseases. To me, environment is everything and has a big contribution to children health,” she says, lauding ActionAid Tanzania and other players for coming up with the project that has changed women’s mindsets.

Abdi Juma, a 24-year-old farmer also expresses his satisfaction over the project, saying before the project, villagers were very difficult, people were eating one meal per day, stunting rate was very high, food was very few and low dietary diversity and farmers have a little knowledge, there was high levels of gender inequality and high workloads for women.

“Right now my life has changed, I can eat two-three meals per day,” he says.

During the implementation of the project, farmers were trained on agro ecological methods, gender equality and nutrition issues as well received assorted varieties of legumes seed to plant in their farms.

Main legume seed varieties which were offered to small scale farmers include pigeon peas, cowpeas, ground nuts, beans and soy beans.

ActionAid Tanzania, Livelihoods and Local Right Programme Manager, Elias Mtinda says currently about 1,200 households, 8,800 people  in 20 villages in Singida district  have been benefited from SNAP.

Under the SNAP project, the smallholder farmers were trained by experts from ActionAid Tanzania, Cornell University, Nelson Mandela University and Ilonga Agricultural Research Institute on agro-ecology methods, gender equality and nutrition issues.

So far the project has provide room for villagers to enhance food security at household level, improve soil fertility in their farms, improved their lives and nutrition status of children at Ntondo village including other villages has greatly improved due to the legumes which they eat than in the past years.

Farmers were trained on how to make traditional pesticides to control pests that destroy their crops in farms and utilize it, process flours from different legumes and utilize it at home, improve nutrition status and   set up extra small businesses to raise their income.

Some of the beneficiaries managed to build modern houses, purchase traditional carts for carrying water, food as additional business, raise food production and other issues.

Farmers are currently using a number of indigenous varieties of legumes seeds to plant in their farms and men are now acknowledging the contribution made by women after perceived the benefit of the SNAP project.

A total of 40 mentor farmers from 20 villages have received trainings on agro ecological methods, nutrition and gender issues through trainings and exposure visit which was held in Malawi.

Mentors carry out monthly home visit to teach their fellow farmers about healthy infant and young children feeding practices, agro ecological methods, and nutrition and gender equality issues.