Ending the cycle of undernutrition in Bangladesh
34-year-old Fatima lives in Elartuk village in Sylhet with her four children and husband. Her youngest child is 2 years old and the oldest is enrolled in Grade 8. Her husband has been working as a carpenter for just over 15 years, a trade he was taught by Fatima’s father-in-law. It is the only work he knows how to do, says Fatima. Consequently, income is not steady because it depends on monthly demand for furniture, and providing for a family of four is costly. Fatima grows produce in her backyard, raises poultry and also farms fish in a nearby pond. She then sells it to neighbors and market salesmen, or barters at the market in exchange for things she needs for the family. Her husband supports the family as much as he can. However, since he does not have a steady income, Fatima’s earnings have been vital to support her family.
Fatima was introduced to Suchana in early 2018 by a group of women going door-to-door in her village looking for people who were interested to participate in the programme. Fatima and her nextdoor neighbour were approached by Suchana’s field officers, and they were both eager to join. As with all beneficiary groups, Fatima joined Suchana’s homestead food production (HFP) interventions in horticulture, and additionally in aquaculture. She also participated in the programme’s core nutrition-based interventions like all beneficiaries. This was a new experience for Fatima who did not know much about the need for a nutritious diet, both for herself and her children.
Suchana’s programme included training sessions on nutrition and healthcare where Fatima learned about the importance of Infant Young Child Feeding (IYCF) and other Maternal Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) guidelines. She can distinguish between her youngest child (the 2-year old who was born after she joined Suchana) and her second last child’s growth. She believes, due to the knowledge gained and practices learned from Suchana, her youngest offspring’s health is in a better shape compared to her older children. She is particularly appreciative of Growth Monitoring Promotion (GMP) sessions where the facilitators measured her child’s weight which is considered as a true indicator of good health, she learned.
Apart from lessons in nutrition, she received HFP training, which not only secured much-needed income to run her household of four children and one husband but also brought forth a sense of financial independence and empowerment in Fatima. The three activities which she learned to perfect and then make profit out of it are: breeding chickens, vegetable gardening and fish farming.
Suchana equipped her with life skills and knowledge to secure financial stability and at the same time put the health of her children first. She makes sure to feed her children a diet high in nutrition that includes produce she grows and eggs her chickens hatch before she sells the excess. While the sales and subsequent income varies from month to month, Fatima is proud to be able to contribute to household expenses.
She also remembers Suchana’s hygiene training toensure lower risk of infection and better health in her household.
Suchana gave Fatima five types of seeds in three instalments. These consisted of:
Suchana also trained her on how to start and maintain a homestead vegetable garden, which included, but was not limited to, management of the size of the garden, cultivation of soil, and the allocation and plantation of seeds. Fatima did not know much about focused vegetable gardening before this.
The HFP training for poultry also taught Fatima how to improve chicken farming, this included the creation of hazals to keep and feed the nesting chickens. Due to the success of the training programme, Fatima can secure the optimal number of matured eggs which hatch. In addition, the HFP training for aquaculture taught Fatima how to initiate, maintain, produce sufficient amounts of fish, and earn a profit from sales of excess produce. Fatima now earns around BDT 2,000 BDT 2,500 in profits from selling 4kgs to 5kgs of fish to neighbours and market fish salesmen. Fish sellers collect Fatima’s fish on their own and buy it from her to take it to the market. However, Fatima faced several challenges before she found success in fish farming. Suchana initially gave Fatima around 400 fish fingerlings to release. This failed when the fingerlings swam away in a flood. In the following year, Fatima re-initiated the effort, and was able to cultivate enough fish for her family’s consumption, and even make modest sales. Suchana’s fish farming training enabled her not only to farm fish, but also keep water bodies clean, and prepare the water with fertilizers, too. She is currently the sole fish farmer in a nearby pond, well-trained, and capable of running a fish farming business on her own.
Suchana trains beneficiaries on caring for infants and mothers to improve the overall life and livelihoods of poor and very poor communities in the Sylhet Division. Through nutrition and healthcare training, Fatima learned about improved maternal health practices, including the importance of ante- and post-natal care, and the consumption of iron and essential vitamins. In addition, Fatima greatly values nutrition lessons she received on a diversified diet for healthy children. For instance, she is now aware of the purpose of providing evening snacks to her children, and how food such as squashed apples can make her baby’s diet more nutritious. Learning about nutrition has been enlightening for Fatima, and she has applied her newfound knowledge with fervour.
From nutrition to hygiene practices, and HFP to a sense of financial independence, Fatima has become a strong advocate for Suchana interventions. Overall, Suchana had a great positive impact on her family and this is why she continued to participate in Suchana’s programmes to pave the way to a better future.
Suchana: Ending the cycle of undernutrition in Bangladesh is a multisectoral nutrition programme which aims to reduce chronic
undernutrition leading to stunting among children under two years of age in 235,500 poor and very poor households in the Sylhet and Moulvibazar districts of Bangladesh.
The programme adopts an integrated approach to nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions and generates a sustainable and replicable model that can be scaled.
Suchana is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth
& Development Office (FCDO) and the EU, and is implemented by a consortium of 8 different
development organisations and research agencies: Center for Natural Resource Studies (CNRS), Friends in Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB), Helen Keller International, icddr,b, iDE, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS), Save the Children, and WorldFish.
The consortium is led by Save the Children.