Learning about good agricultural and dietary practices transformed life for Ethel Benda and her family, showing how Farmer Field Schools contribute to a profitable smallholder sector
Before joining the Farmer Field School (FFS) in the 2018/19 season, 27-year-old Ethel Benda and her family were facing many challenges. Her children, aged six and nine, were suffering from malnutrition-related disorders and had to visit the health clinic almost every fortnight. The performance of her children in school was also not impressive, as they were unable to concentrate on learning owing to having empty stomachs. The impact of poor nutrition was felt across the family.
The turning point came when Ethel joined a FFS and learnt about good agricultural practices in tea production and the benefits of good nutrition and sanitation. She learnt how her family’s health was being impacted by not having a diversified diet and discovered new ways of preparing certain nutritious food items to make them more appetizing to her family.
Ethel started preparing meals at home using recipes she learnt in the FFS; the vegetables were prepared in such a way that even her children started liking them. The children are also now given snacks made from orange-fleshed sweet potato and banana. As well as making healthy snacks for home consumption, Ethel now also prepares some for sale. She makes revenues of around MKW 6,000 (EUR 6.65) per fortnight, which she uses to cover household expenses.
As a result of the increased consumption of vegetables and other nutritious foods, the nutritional status of Ethel and her household has considerably improved, resulting in a drastic reduction of visits to the health centre. It has also had a positive impact on her children’s school performance. Her daughter Silvia came third in class during last semester’s examination.
To ensure regular access to the vegetables she prepares for her family, Ethel has established a kitchen garden where she grows Ethiopian rape, tomato and mustard. She sources the seed for this garden independently, from local shops and using seed multiplication techniques. Her husband is supportive and buys other food items for the family which cannot be sourced from their own garden.
“My family is able to eat food from all 6 food groups from what is locally available in our community. I have benefitted a lot from the FFS and I will continue to practice what I learnt.