Since 2015, International Medical Corps’ Positive Deviance (PD)/Hearth program in nine villages of Gursum Woreda, Ethiopia has helped 1,579 underweight and malnourished children 6-59 months quickly gain weight by teaching their mothers and caregivers how best to prepare local foods for their families. In 2020, International Medical Corps brought PD/Hearth into two new woredas: Kersa and Haromaya. We integrate PD/Hearth with the government’s Growth Monitoring and Promotion program in local health centers and related approaches such as Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition and Infant and Young Child Feeding programming. Together with existing community structures such as health committees, staff and volunteers promote and sustain the mother’s and caregiver’s ability to properly feed her children over time.
Sustainable Backyard Gardening
Thanks to the generous support of Earth Council Geneva, International Medical Corps initiated sustainable backyard gardening projects in Gursum Woreda in 2019 and expanded the program into communities in the Haromaya and Kersa Woredas in 2020. The program expansion targeted six kebeles - Sodu, Handurakosum and Belalangey kebeles in Kersa Woreda and Kerensadereba, Kuro and Biftugetda kebeles in Haromaya Woreda. In conjunction with the woreda agriculture offices, we determined the vegetable seed selection for the target households and facilitated capacity building trainings.
In Gursum Woreda we provided vegetable seeds to 1,579 households and distributed 685 watering cans. To date, 1,532 households (97%) have been harvesting vegetables and preparing them for their children at home and diversifying their diet according to what they learned during PD/Hearth sessions.
In Haromaya and Kersa Woredas, we distributed 720 watering cans and provided vegetable seeds to 796 households, exceeding our initial target of 720 households by also distributing seeds to the model mothers and other volunteers who supported the smooth implementation of the PD/Hearth program. See Table 1 below for details of the distribution.
Training Community Members
In all three woredas, International Medical Corps provided trainings to health development army members (HDAs) and community members on basic activities such as the selection of optimum sites, land preparation, mulching and the use of organic fertilizer (see Table 2). The trained HDAs and volunteers, along with development agents (DAs) and an expert from the agriculture office, demonstrated how to prepare land, how to sow seeds and how to protect them from the sun during the early stages of growth. They also conducted regular follow-up visits during the planting, growing and harvesting seasons to address needs and questions as they arose. These home visits make it possible for us to confirm that all beneficiaries who received seeds planted them.
COVID-19 Prevention Measures
To prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus during the trainings, our team provided liquid soap, hand sanitizer, and PPE to the training participants. Staff conducted temperature screenings during entry and adhered to other prevention measures such as physical distancing and providing the training in an open area for proper ventilation when possible.
Two Stories from Buna Kebele, Gursum Woreda
Sumeya, 36 months old, lives with her mother Fariha and father Hassan. On July 29, 2018, she was admitted to the PD/Hearth program, weighing only 12kg. The hearth volunteer along with her mother started Sumeya’s rehabilitation and she graduated after three months at 15kg. She continued gaining weight for the next 12 months. In September 2019, Fariha received vegetable seeds and water cans provided by International Medical Corps thanks to the support of Earth Council Geneva, and sowed the seeds after preparing the land according to the best practices she had learned. In mid-December 2019, Fariha was able diversify her family meals, as she was trained by PD/Hearth, when she began harvesting her own tomatoes, cabbages and carrots. Her new menus now include: 1) A sauce of tomato, carrot and cabbage cooked with vegetable oil to accompany the Ethiopian bread known as injera; 2) tomato, carrot and chopped cabbage cooked with vegetable oil and eaten with rice; and 3) chopped tomatoes, crushed/chopped cabbage and carrot mixed with milk and corn or sorghum to make porridge.
Mawa, 48 months, lives with her mother Fayza and father Ibrahim. Mawa was admitted to the PD/Hearth program weighing only 13.1kg. She graduated three months later, weighing 14.2kg and continued to progress with the help of her mother. As Fayza recognized it to be a life enhancement, she joined the PD/Hearth program herself as a volunteer. One month after receiving and planting the seeds she received thanks to Earth Council Geneva, her husband Ibrahim endorsed integrating the cultivated vegetables into the family’s daily meal and suggested selling tomatoes and cabbages they didn’t need in the market. As a result, the couple earned an extra ETB 3,000 ($93), some of which they used to buy fruits, egg and milk. Mr. Ibrahim is a role model for fathers and husbands as he helped his wife take care of Mawa and cooked when she went to the market. Ibrahim told us that he will continue planting the vegetables to diversify the family’s meals and for the revenue.
Partnering with Earth Council Geneva
International Medical Corps appreciates Earth Council Geneva’s generous support of sustainable food security activities such as household gardens especially in this increasingly insecure region. With support from Earth Council Geneva, International Medical Corps initiated sustainable backyard gardening projects in Gursum Woreda and expanded the program into communities in the Haromaya and Kersa Woredas. As this program progresses, families may decide to sell extra vegetables at the market, like Fayza and Ibrahim in the stories above – benefiting others as well as themselves – and we can instruct them on how to preserve vegetables for future consumption.