Growing Healthy Communities: Farmer Participatory Research to Improve Child Nutrition, Food Security, and Soils in Ekwendeni, Malawi

  • Bezner Kerr R
  • Msachi R
  • Dakishoni L
 et al. 
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Abstract

A "legume options" programme that addressed the malnutrition problems in Malawi is described. The system includes intercropping 2 legume crops (e.g., pigeon pea and groundnut) that together improved soil fertility if the crop residues were buried after harvest. The Soils, Food and Healthy Communities (SFHC) project in the Ekwendeni region of northern Malawi was further initiated to explore the relationship between human health, social factors, and the ecosystem. A case-control longitudinal study design that used multiple methods to assess change was deemed appropriate for examining whether this ecohealth approach could make a significant impact on child nutrition. During 2000-2009, a total of 200 in-depth interviews, 30 focus groups and 8 surveys were conducted. The team made more than 3000 anthropometric measurements of children (weight and height), weighed crop harvests, visited hundreds of farmers' fields to assess residue practices and held many participatory workshops. Successes and challenges encountered are discussed. The project's success is attributed to linking more sustainable land-management methods to positive child-health outcomes, using farmer knowledge and practice. In a changing economic and agricultural policy environment, the Farmer Association continues to need to negotiate better prices and support the communities.

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Authors

  • Rachel Bezner Kerr

  • Rodgers Msachi

  • Laifolo Dakishoni

  • Lizzie Shumba

  • Zachariah Nkhonya

  • Peter Berti

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