A focus on the first two years

Training adults to ensure children get a healthy start in life.

Regine Kamga explains importance of harvesting leafy vegetables at the right time to retain nutrients.

The first two years of a child’s life are crucial to determining well-being in adulthood. In Cameroon, the project “Improving diet diversity among children aged 0-23 months in Mokolo health district, the Far North region” aims to ensure families are aware of effective infant and young children feeding (IYCF) practices and water-sanitation-hygiene (WASH) practices. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) supports the nutrition aspects of the project, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds the project’s vegetable production activities.

The World Vegetable Center organized an IYCF and WASH training session for project team members and government staff from health, agricultural extension, and women and family empowerment sectors from 23 – 26 October 2019 in Maroua, in the Far North region of Cameroon. Seven women and 11 men participated, out of which 5 were chiefs of health centres, 3 were heads of health facilities, and 5 were chiefs of agricultural posts. There was one representative of the Ministry of the Promotion of Women and Family (MINPROFF), one representative of the Ministry of Economy and Planning (MINEPAT), and 3 field assistants from WorldVeg.

Regine Kamga from WorldVeg welcomed participants to the session, and then turned over the training to Thomas Lapobe, a representative of the Regional Delegate of the Ministry of Public Health and Emmanuel Ngolong, nutrition focal point at the Maroua office of the World Food Programme. The in-depth training and group work covered community counselling and support group sessions for IYCF; recommended feeding practices during the first two years of a child’s life; situations affecting IYCF practices; exclusive and intensive breastfeeding; different food groups; complementary feeding and home fortification with micronutrient powder; feeding a sick child; feeding a non-breastfed child and minimum acceptable nutrition; nutrition for pregnant and lactating woman; treatment and storage of drinking water; food hygiene; prevention and management of common challenges related to breastfeeding; dietary deficiencies and home biofortification; and Good Agricultural Practices for vegetable production.

Eighteen participants were trained in IYCF practices, exceeding the original target. In fact, the representative of MINEPAT was expected to attend only the opening ceremony but later expressed his interest to fully participate in the training. The analysis of the pre-test (69%) and post-test (86%) confirms that the knowledge level of the participants improved in IYCF and WASH. Participants expressed wishes to receive follow-ups after the training.

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The partnership between WorldVeg and UNICEF was presented to other stakeholders on 1 November 2019 at a meeting to interact with those already working in the same intervention areas to see how activities can be implemented in a complementary way.  A total of 12 persons (6 women, 6 men)  from WorldVeg, UNICEF, Hellen Keller International, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Director of the Sub-division of Food and Nutritional Diversity (Ministry of Health), and representatives from the Ministry of Education and farmers groups (COSADER, OXFAM) participated. Regine Kamga and Willie Kemgueu (Consultant Nutritionist) from WorldVeg gave a presentation to introduce the Center and the project. In the discussion that followed, five key recommendations emerged:

  1. Involve mayors to allocate land for community gardens.
  2. Inform government at all project levels when planning activities.
  3. Gender mainstreaming should consider involving men during nutritional sensitization and culinary demonstrations so that they can participate actively in the nutrition of their children.
  4. Food taboos should be addressed through positive discrimination. It is important to identify them early and make the link with Infants and Young Children Feeding practices.
  5. Success stories and documentation of good practices serves as guides for others organizations and can help to evaluate the impact of the project.

Story and photos: Regine Kamga

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Ronal Chendjou presents good agricultural practices for vegetable production.