Afikepo Wonders in Nkhotakota and Salima
In the remotest village of the lakeshore district of Nkhotakota in Malawi, in Chiphaka village, Traditional Authority (TA) Mwadzama, lives 30-year-old Esther Phiri a subsistence farmer but now lactating her one-month old twin girls.
Guess what, she is a hero among her villagers since she is able to improve her household nutrition status including that of the twins and other two children.
Phiri is doing this courtesy of the European Union funded Afikepo project being implemented in the district by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) through the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
Through care groups, she has been attending meetings to learn about nutrition and then share the skills with other community members in her area.
“I shoulder the responsibility of caring for my family needs and well-being. I always make sure that all the six food groups are available., In the pass, it was difficult to prepare and adopt nutrition practices due to a lack of knowledge of the same," Phiri says.
Nancy Namanja is the Agriculture Extension Development Officer for Mtosa Extension Planning Area (EPA) and says the coming of Afikepo has reduced malnutrition levels from 40 percent to 10 percent in the area besides the district.
“We have structures which look into issues of consuming different food groups and diversified agricultural production.
"Each household now has rabbits, chickens and a backyard garden to ensure availability and accessibility of fruits and vegetables," she said.
Namanja says if the project phases out, having rabbits and chicken are sustainable means to continue with the interventions.
In the sister lakeshore district of Salima, in Chidya village, Group Village Headman Malendo, TA Kambale lives Joyce Sikelo a peasant farmer in the area.
Sikelo says the Afikepo project provided the community with knowledge to improve household hygiene practices beside nutrition skills.
"We were provided with chickens and goats to ensure the nutrition of our households are sustained.
On hygiene practices, previously we use to defect along the lake but now we have hygienic toilets which are key to the community’s health in fighting against cholera among other waterborne related diseases.
Village Headman (VH) Chilungo real-name Wilson Jayo under GVH Malendo says mindset change has been crucial for the project's remarkable strides in the area.
"When the project was being introduced in the area in 2017, knowledge gap in nutrition and hygiene practices were a challenge. But with time, community leaders shoulder the responsibility of raising awareness of the same," VH Chilungo says.
When asked what next after the project phases out, VH Chilungo tells us that owing to extensive knowledge gained, he is encouraged to be part of bringing change in the community as it has been before.
For Boston Phiri, a crops officer for Chipoka EPA, Chitontho section, having a malnourished child in the area was a source of charity and business opportunity among communities until Afikepo came in.
“Families were borrowing children to benefit from food supplements which is not the case now," Phiri says.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is the project's implementor and Rabecca Kadazi is FAO's District Manager for Salima who shares her insights on the project impact in the district.
She says the gains registered are commendable where diets diversification and sanitation have improved among the beneficiaries.
"Community leaders set by-laws had made it possible for the beneficiaries to sustain all the project interventions," Kadazi says.