Women at Senekedu in Koinadugu District taking part in the Eat What You Grow project

On Friday 4th August, 2017 vegetable farmers and women from the Mothers Support Group converged at the Senekedugu Community Health Centre in Kabala Koinadugu District Northern Sierra Leone to witness a cooking demonstration under the Eat What You Project.

Scaling-up Nutrition and Immunisation Civil Society Platform Sierra Leone (SUNI-CSP SL) combined behaviour change communications with agriculture and nutrition-focused activities to promote the benefits of eating locally available foods.

SUN-CSP project justification report reveals that “For many years farmers in Koinadugu district have being producing of vegetables and rearing livestock. Despite this, the district still has one of the highest levels of malnutrition, particularly stunting.”

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Earlier this year, SUNI CSP-SL was selected as one of the winners of the SUN Civil Society Network ‘Innovation Plan Award’ for their concept ‘Eat What you Grow’. As part of this, SUNI CSP-SL was awarded with a small grant to make their idea a reality.

SUNI CSP-SL carried out an initial assessment in Koinadugu District to identify the causes and drivers of the high malnutrition rates. The assessment involved all key stakeholders in the district (e.g. government, CSOs, community leaders).

Food taboos, not just the food accessibility, were identified as one of key barriers to good nutrition. Some of the food taboos identified, included:

• Lactating mothers should not eat vegetables, meat or fish in the first forty days after child birth
• Children especially under 5 should not eat banana, fish, egg or meat

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Suckling mothers at Senekedugu Health Centre

Through the ‘Eat What you Grow’ project, SUNI CSP-SL is tackling this by delivering social mobilisation and awareness raising activities to promote good nutrition behaviour and tackle food taboos.

Central to this has been effective multi-stakeholder collaboration among local CSOs, authorities, farmers, religious leaders as well as the training of “champions” and “lead farmers” to promote good nutrition behaviours, particularly increasing the consumption of nutritious, locally-produced foods.

These champions have empowered other champions in order to reach more communities.

The project has strengthened community awareness to change the dietary habits and have improved the nutritional status of approximately over 2,000 people in Koinadugu District.

Click link to watch video on the cooking demonstration