Integrating gender and nutrition within agricultural extension services in Sierra Leone
| ||INGENAES students visit Bonganema in Southern Sierra Leone to discuss the nutritional implications of food myths or traditional beliefs (photo by Augustine Amara)|
Student Outreach in Bonganema Community: "Scaling up Nutrition"
Students have embarked on learning and brainstorming in communities about food myths and the value of consuming nutritious produce and animal source foods.
This learning and sharing was done during a daylong workshop on June 22 by a team of fifteen students of the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Sociology, School of Agriculture, Njala University, who are also members of the INGENAES project. Gender and nutrition specialists taught farming households how to share food in the household based on age, gender, and their required nutrients. This exercise was carried out in Bonganema village in southern Sierra Leone. The team of students also educated the people on the importance of eating a diversity of what they cultivate to foster self-reliance. Nutritious foods should not all be sold, nor does access to nutritious food depend on a family's ability to purchase it.
“This program, Scaling up Household Nutrition, is a program initiated by INGENAES student mentorship and outreach membership to help sensitize people in the community that the myth they hold towards the consumption of certain foods foster inequality and deprives children and girls from having the necessary nutrient responsible for their overall wellbeing and growth. Also we aim to help household heads (mothers and fathers) understand the benefit of equitable distribution of food in the household and the eating of balanced diet,” said Hawa Abu, the head of INGENAES’s student outreach team.
According to participant Alhaji Musa, who is also a community head man in Bonganema village, there were several foods like eggs and meat that they thought should not be given to children. The yellow portion of the egg was believed to be bad for a child’s brain, as it was said that it makes children stupid.
INGENAES and Njala students have worked hard to enlighten people about whether these beliefs are backed by science and evidence, while discussing how these food myths impact nutrition outcomes and gendered allocation of foods.
“These foods that we thought were bad are in fact good for the development and wellbeing of our children, and we have learnt that eating meat and other nutritious food is good for us. I used to sell all the meat that my husband brought from hunting, leaving us with no meat but now I know better, I will be keeping some for the family” said Fatu Koroma, a participant from Bonganema community.
Hawa Abu further stated, “One of the reasons why we embark on this sensitization is because many people in the rural areas do not realize the impact and consequences of distribution of food in the household. For them the father should have the largest portion of meat, although it is the children that need more protein for their overall wellbeing and development. Protein-rich foods are mostly set aside for the father to consume, but this should not be the case as women and children need them too. We plan to take this sensitization project on Scaling up Household Nutrition to other surrounding villages as well, because we’ve found out that it is very much beneficial to farming household. Also the learning, sharing and sensitization were well appreciated by the participants.”
| ||INGENAES network members in the Knowledge Sharing and Learning Workshop. Photo by: Augustine Amara|
Members Strengthen Knowledge Sharing and Learning
“Knowledge sharing and learning is vital for the progress of any developmental activity and could lead to capacity building,” said James Blackie, Representative from USAID.
This statement opened a one-day workshop on knowledge sharing and learning that INGENAES organized at the Leisure Lodge in Aberdeen, Freetown, Sierra Leone on July 11th. The Knowledge Sharing and Learning (KSL) Workshop, with facilitation led by Andrea Bohn (Associate Director INGENAES project), was held to strengthen the Network for Gender and Nutrition Strengthening in Extension as a community of practice that promotes KSL among members. The workshop focused on developing a draft strategy to bring together and link key stakeholders through forums and meetings, discussions, and e-library and/or website and one-on-one interaction.
Activities carried out during the workshop included impromptu networking, sharing our vision, and visioning using a "River of Life". The workshop employed a facilitation methodology called “purpose to practice” beginning with basic definitions and understandings of knowledge, knowledge sharing, and knowledge capture, and then drafting ideas for a purpose statement for the INGENAES Network’s KSL strategy. Transitioning to practice, rapid needs and capacity assessments were facilitated by asking participants to identify knowledge or information gaps that they seek to fill, and then asking participants from other organizations whether they have knowledge products or tools to help fill those identified gaps. Finally, action steps were designated to the different participants based on the discussions and exercises. There were 20 participants from 14 organizations, all members of the INGENAES network, who took part in the workshop.
| ||INGENAES student and staff panelists on air on the “Extension Hour” program at Njala University Radio 92.5 FM. Photo by: Augustine Amara|
Reaching People and Raising Awareness through Radio
Since September 2016, INGENAES SL has reached out to a wider audience of network members and farmers. This is made possible by engaging various radio stations across the country. The INGENAES Coordination Team, network members, students, Njala University, staff from MAFFS, farmers, and other key stakeholders have been engaged in our radio programs discussing key issues relating to gender and nutrition-sensitive approaches in extension services. The radio programs aimed at educating people in the community about gender and nutrition in the context of extension and agriculture, advocating against harmful gender stereotypes and the effects that gender roles and relations can have on productivity, nutrition and economic outcomes.
There is now a weekly radio show called “Extension Hour” every Thursday at 8:00 p.m. on Njala University Radio, FM 92.5. The programs brings the farmers' voices together with extension practitioners and students, and Njala University researchers that are often the panelists of the radio programs. The extension radio program is an interactive show among INGENAES team, the community of extension practitioners, farmers as well as the general public are given the opportunity to call in and contribute their views and opinions.
During one of the extension hour outreach radio show, farmer Tommy Lahai expressed, “I own my farm. I make decision as and how I feel, I control resources such as land, farm produce, and income, and my wife and children only help me on the farm.” In response to this farmer, Augustine Amara, the project research assistant, INGENAES, encourages men farmers to look at women farmers as partners rather than subordinates. The weekly features highlight issues such as the important tasks performed by women in the household, on the farm and the community. INGENAES brings in experts from the Department of Extension as panelists on the radio shows to answer questions from farmers and to educate them on issues that are raised during the programs.
"Farmers often give out their opinions and concerns, and we air them on the radio shows,” said Adolphus Johnson, head coordinator at INGENAES SL. The phone line is opened during these programs, and people can give their responses and questions about issues discussed during the programs.
Hawa Abu, an INGENAES student stated, “People most times commend us for doing what we do, and many farmers call and ask critical questions on issues discussed during the programs.”
| ||Sheka Sesay, an extension staff of the SAP Project works with the Makrugba cluster fish farmer group to establish a tool bank in June of 2017. Photo by Augustine Amara|
Partnering with WorldFish Extension in the Field since 2016
INGENAES is supporting WorldFish in Tonkolili in the field through extension programming, evaluation, and research. INGENAES first directly joined the Feed the Future Agriculture Pilot Project in 2016 and has boosted efforts under the SAP Project since the beginning of 2017. Through the partnership, field staff has learned to facilitate farmer-to-farmer learning exchanges, use practical tools to integrate gender and nutrition into field activities and reflections, assess technologies for impacts on gender and nutrition, and brainstorm innovations to address problems and constraints farmers face. One such recent extension innovation jointly brainstormed under the partnership is a Cluster Group Tool bank, being tested to address the constraint poor farmers faced to obtain tools for pond construction. While as many NGOs and previous projects have provided free tools for farmers, the tool bank is designed as a pro-poor business model approach, to support farmers to establish a sustainable mechanism independent of outside support to use limited resources, pool existing tools, and save funds by contributing for tool use to purchase or repair tools to use during pond construction and for production activities. A technical note is being developed to share the tool bank concept for other practitioners to test under projects promoting transformation from subsistence farming to cluster group farming for business.
Update on Scaling Up Aquaculture Production in Tonkolili
INGENAES is collaborating with WorldFish to develop a gender strategy for the Scaling up Aquaculture Production (SAP) project. During July, to begin writing the strategy, a team of University of Illinois and WorldFish specialists worked together intensively in the field, communities, project offices, and workshops with farmers and extension workers, and stakeholders from the government, private sector, Njala University and other partners. Field-based learning and inquiry was a central source of inspiration and inputs for the strategy.
The team drafted a purpose of the SAP Gender Strategy being “to guide the project on how to accomplish its aims in a way that accounts for and includes gender in either an accommodating or transformative manner as appropriate.” The strategy will make intentions transparent and explicit and hold project stakeholders accountable. It outlines how gender research will be designed and implemented in the project and how research will lead to development outcomes and impact.
Image Right: To learn more about the SAP project and gender constraints and opportunities to consider for a gender strategy, Andrea Bohn visits the Makali Fish Farm to see the hatchery and breeding operations that were developed by WorldFish in partnership with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources. Photo by Colby Silvert.
| ||Stakeholder group brainstorming at the workshop on July 18th at the EBK University in Tonkolili. Photo by Colby Silvert|
Workshop to develop the Scaling Up Aquaculture Gender Strategy
Major stakeholders of the Scaling up Aquaculture Production (SAP) project came together at the Ernest Bai Koroma University in Magburaka to provide inputs into the Gender Strategy for the SAP project. The workshop was led by Andrea Bohn. Thirty-seven people from 11 organizations and institutions participated in intensive brainstorming sessions to identify potential gendered challenges which the project may encounter during implementation and started talking about how to address them. Patricia BortehYema, a gender specialist, worked with fish farmer Neneh Bah from Manasi to draw a “Gender Balance Tree”. This is one of the tools included in the household-based, gender transformative methodology, which has already been used and evaluated positively in the IFAD funded Smallholder Commercialization Programme – Global Agricultural Food Security Programme. The team aims begin implementing the completed SAP Gender Strategy later this year.
| ||Yeanoh teaches a group of students about vegetable production in Tonkolili|
Youth Empowered as Gender and Nutrition Change Makers: A Success Story
Yeanoh Dumbuya, studied at Njala focusing on nutrition, and is now working as a field agent for the SAP project. Since June 2016, she has been involved in overlapping partnership activities with the INGENAES project. Growing to Lead is a success story that tells Yeanoh’s story as a young woman with a passion for addressing gender and nutrition through her work in the field with fish farmers and her advocacy participating in the INGENAES Community of Practice for extension actors in Sierra Leone.
INGENAES Network Monitoring, Evaluation, Learning, and Communications Mini Training and Network Meeting
Dates: September 23-24, 2017 at Njala University in Moyamba
Symposium on Promoting Gender and Nutrition Sensitive Agricultural Extension
Dates: January 15-19, 2018 (with core program on January 16-18, and skill building workshops on the day before and after), at Njala University, Njala Campus
More information, including on how to register, is at www.sl-extension.net.
The Integrating Gender and Nutrition within Agricultural Extension Services project in Sierra Leone is housed in the Department of Agricultural Extension and Rural Sociology, Njala University. As a central engagement, the project has launched a network of extension service providers from the public, nongovernmental, and private sectors working together to play a critical role in strengthening gender and nutrition knowledge and practices within extension services, by empowering women while engaging men.
Staff (from left to right): Adolphus J. Johnson, Team Leader; Makalay Saidiatu Sonda, Project Communications Specialist; Augustine Amara, Project Research Assistant; Fatmata Binta Jalloh, Co-Coordinator; Colby Silvert, In-Country Project Specialist
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