Changing knowledge, attitudes and practices for improved household nutrition in Malawi


Oida in her maize garden


“Since I joined Tovwirane nutrition learning centre in 2018, my knowledge, attitudes and practices have greatly changed. My approach to nutrition is completely different. At first, I used to think that projects are there simply for handouts. Now I realize that being part of a project can improve the quality of life greatly. Indeed a project can change the course of your life, just like Afikepo Project has done with mine.”

These are the words of Mrs. Oida Mwaupighu, a 64-year-old widow, who is raising her family, including a 4-year-old grandson in Ichinga village, Chitipa District, the farthest northern district in Malawi. A highly talkative and active woman who says that she has for some years struggled to put nutritious food on the table, her simple words carry the weight of one for whom new knowledge and changes in practice have wrought positive change in her life.

Changing knowledge and attitudes on nutrition is at the core of the European Union-funded Afikepo nutrition sensitive agriculture project, which is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The project is reaching out to communities in ten districts in Malawi, targeting children under the age of five, adolescent girls, and pregnant and lactating women. Among its objectives is the increased utilization of Malawi’s six food groups and availability and accessibility to nutritious food for households such as Oida’s.

“Before joining the nutrition sensitive agriculture training activities, I used to think that consuming all six food groups a day was not possible unless one had a lot of money. I also did not know how to prepare nutritious meals. Thanks to the District Agriculture Office and Care Promoters supported by Afikepo have guided me on how to prepare nutritious meals using locally available foods through cooking demonstrations and that they are nutritious too,” Oida says.

Further, Oida is part of a 30-member group of receiving guidance at the Afikepo Tovwirane Nutrition Learning Centre. This is one of 1,739 sites, which have been established in the ten districts targeted under the Afikepo project since its inception in 2017. It is there where Oida has learnt how to practice diversified agricultural production and has grasped knowledge of improved agricultural technologies that are supporting increased productivity for both food and nutrition security within her household.

“My agricultural production this year has greatly improved and is more diversified. As we speak, I have cultivated maize, groundnuts, soya beans, sweet potatoes and other crops. In addition, I have fruits around my house to complete the food groups that Afikepo project is advocating. We are now able to consume three meals a day meeting almost all the six food groups required for a good health and nutrition,” Oida says.

Oida acknowledges that income security is equally important and a determinant for whether or not she can continue to sustain good nutrition for her family. She is however confidently points to her improved production and subsequent sale of surplus produce as one of the means by which she can add to her household income saying that she is sure that next growing season (2020/2021) she will not struggle to source farm inputs such as fertilizer and seed.