A local NGO in Malawi
is teaching communities to change their eating habits to avert hunger. The NGO
known as the Story Workshop is encouraging farmers to diversify their crops.
The European Union is funding the effort.
literally meaning a home of plenty, is a food security radio magazine program
aimed at reducing household food shortages. Malawi Broadcasting Corporation
airs the program, which covers a number of activities, including village
festival campaigns. The Mwana Alirenji team encourages villagers to address the
challenges they face in improving food production.
In Malawi, nearly everyone relies on nsima – a thick
porridge made from maize flour. It's often
the only main dish, and is eaten with meat, fish or beans. All other food is
seen as secondary. A family without maize flour is considered hunger stricken.
Faith Phiri is the
monitor and evaluation officer for the project. She says attitudes are changing,
"During these activities we encourage other foods to be included in their diet.
Things like cassava when prepared well with relish and other things can be used
to substitute maize food; the same with sweet potato and other crops that we
promote in villages."
She says the effort
mainly targets women, who by tradition have a leading role in the kitchen. As a
result, many people are changing their eating habits, including housewife Annie
"We used to cook
pumpkins, [but always accompanied by the main food, nsima]. [Thanks to the diet diversification program]
we [have learned it's OK to eat] rice, cassava, bananas and sweet potatoes
alone without relying on nsima."
Phiri says the effort
could reach more people if there were more financial support,
"We have received
huge response. There are a lot of people
who want to benefit from this project but (we) don't have enough resources. For
example, when we want to host the community kitchen (where women are taught
modern methods of cooking), we found short of resources [like utensils]" she
diet-change programs, the campaign involves encouraging farmers to grow
cassava, sweet potatoes, bananas and vegetables which they can also sell to
Gladson Makowa is the
senior producer of the radio program Mwana Alirenji, or Farmer to Farmer.
Makowa says, "We
bring in a farmer who is well conversant with a problem or a farmer who
overcame the problems. He demonstrates to villagers how he overcomes a
particular problem. [His presentation] is recorded and later broadcast to the
nation. It turns out almost all the people in Malawi are adopting modern
agriculture methods that we promote [and broadcast on the radio program] during
these village festivals."
Among the methods are
new ways of making and using manure and planting maize. They also include the
construction of ridges across hillsides that keep crops from washing away with
funding from donors, supporters hope the project can be implemented well beyond
the 78 villages in which it now operates.