A Focus on Nutrition Improves Community Health in Senegal

March 8, 2017
Itunu Kuku, JSIAfter support from Feed the Future, Thiane Dramé no longer struggles to provide good nutrition for her family. Best of all, she often grows enough food to sell and make extra income.

Thiane Dramé of Senegal’s Kaolack region once found it difficult to provide a healthy and varied diet for the youngest of her seven children and her four grandchildren. Today, things are different. With the help of a USAID nutrition project in central Senegal, she’s growing more food and providing better nutrition to her family. Dramé prepares most of this food for her family, gives some to friends, and sells the rest in her community. She uses the additional income to enrich her family’s diet.

In October 2015, the Strengthening Partnerships, Results and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project launched a short-term, high-impact program in three regions of Senegal to improve child and maternal nutrition. The program supports the Feed the Future initiative by helping existing regional organizations scale up good practices for nutrition-sensitive agriculture, dietary diversity, infant feeding and hygiene. Since then, it has reached over 430,000 women with nutrition-sensitive information, chiefly by radio and direct contact with close to 7,500 households, including Dramé’s. Over 500 staff members from six partner organizations were trained to conduct household visits to support nutrition-related behaviors. 

Dramé learned better nutrition practices from these partner organizations and has used the knowledge to grow nutrient-rich crops like biofortified maize and millet, carrots, cowpeas, and orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in her garden. She has also adopted more effective planting and irrigation techniques to help her plants grow. 

Dramé’s garden now produces so much food that she can sell what her family doesn’t eat. SPRING also helped a women’s group she’s a part of install a shared chicken coop and, when they sell the eggs or chickens, she gets a share of the proceeds. “I use the profit to buy fruits like banana, mango and papaya, which improve my family’s nutrition,” Dramé explained. 

Her family can now afford regular meals of veal and fish too. Because the family eats a better diet, “my youngest grandson doesn’t fall sick as much now, so we [also] don’t have hospital bills like before,” Dramé said.  

By working through existing partners who have earned the trust of communities, Feed the Future supports families like Dramé’s as they build their self-reliance. The initiative helps address the many factors that contribute to nutrition, such as agriculture, income for food, infant and young child feeding, adequate hygiene, reducing women’s workload, improving maternal nutrition, and gender equity. These partnerships strengthen the knowledge neighbors share with each other and help them understand how to grow nutritious food right outside their doorsteps, boost their household incomes, and be better prepared to weather difficult times. 

Now, Dramé and her family don’t just share their harvest: they also share what they have learned about nutrition and help their neighbors improve their own gardens. “In my community, all the women have started their own gardens… [and] I invite other women to do the same,” Dramé said.