A woman serves porridge after demonstrating how to make it in Noungou village, Burkina Faso, March 23, 2017. Photo by Emna-Zina Thabet (Welthungerhilfe)
Young cassava leaves and dried fish stew, pearl millet couscous with peanuts and baobab leaves dressing, crispy salad with Moringa and sesame seeds…you are not watching Masterchef or reading the menu of a fancy restaurant, but sitting under a nere tree in Noungou village, Burkina Faso.
About 50 women, most of them carrying their child on their back, are gathered and closely watch the cooking demonstration that is taking place in front of them. We are right next to their cassava plots and market gardens, set up with the support of the BRACED programme.
Food insecurity is a real threat in this part of the country, where chronic malnutrition affects more than 30 percent of the population. Local farmers are vulnerable to climate extremes such as droughts or heavy floods that destroy their crops and threaten their main source of income.
Consequently, the food budget is cut down, the household basket reduced, the rations kept to a minimum and entire families risk malnutrition.
The BRACED consortium in Burkina Faso, led by Welthungerhilfe and Self Help Africa, aims to strengthen local women’s and children’s food security, through the promotion of market gardening and poultry farming as well as a healthy and varied diet.
The consortium encourages the use of local food products that are affordable and high in nutrients.
“Local food products should be regarded as our first medicine because they are natural, not processed and contain all the vitamins and minerals needed for a healthy diet,” said Awa Ouattara, the consortium’s nutrition expert. “Integrating these products into daily diets increases the range of food products available and improves people’s nutrition.”
The nutritional values and the use of these products, such as the cassava leaves or the moringa, are unknown in the rural area. So it is essential to share this knowledge and promote new practices.
Now that all utensils have been properly cleaned, that the women have washed the ingredients and that some of the pots are already heating up, a facilitator demonstrates the recipe for a nutritious porridge made of sorghum, pearl millet, beans and baobab fruit flour, recommended for children from six months to two years.
She explains again how the flour can easily be homemade while one of the women volunteers to stir the porridge. A child approaches to get a closer smell; he seems very interested in tasting the boiling mixture.
“The stew is burning!” someone shouts, rushing to take the lid off the pan. Fortunately, it is a false alarm and gives everyone a laugh. The tables are set and the spoons drawn for the tasting part of the session. The kids line up to taste the porridge and the mashed carrots, while their mothers help themselves to the other meals.
“I’ve started growing cassava after the BRACED training says Estelle. “Our plot is right there. I had no idea we could eat the leaves! It’s tasty and it doesn’t cost a thing. I will try to cook it for dinner.”
This nutrition and dietary diversification awareness campaign will take place throughout the project intervention area with the support of the consortium local partners and their facilitators.