(Tetum) An outside table overflowing with colourful, fresh, locally produced fruits, vegetables and legumes on a warm tropical morning; the smell of cooking fish with fresh herbs and spices; the sound of bubbling pots, blending juices; and the buzz of an excited group of women and men cooking and learning for the benefit of their families. That was the setting for MAF-SoL’s newly rolled-out nutrition training held in Remexio, Aileu, on Friday 11 April. A lesson where participants can touch, taste and smell what they are learning about is no ordinary classroom activity!
“We are thankful for the training provided by MAF-SoL to our women’s group. The farmers have many crops that they plant but they don’t realise the nutrition content. Now we have a better understanding of nutrition, especially in the crops that we plant”
Under the guidance of the team at HIAM-Health, members of the MAF-SoL gender and Sosek teams undertook extensive nutrition and health training over a period of 8 days. The trainings consisted of in-depth explanations and discussions on health and nutrition issues that most affect rural Timorese, including maternal and child nutrition and how to prepare and consume nutritious local foods. Topics covered included:
Basic nutrition – the impact of nutrition on the human body, food groups and definitions;
Malnutrition – signs and symptoms, categories of malnutrition and preventative methods;
Balanced diets – basic principles of dietary balance, using locally available foods, providing balanced diets for infants and children, and pregnant and lactating mothers;
Breastfeeding – colostrum taboo, nutritional benefits, and best positions for babies;
Worms – types of worms, effects of worms on nutrition, preventing and treating worms;
Hygiene and sanitation – personal hygiene, hand washing, safe food handling and food hygiene, environmental hygiene and disease prevention.
Working with Rosaria Martins da Cruz, director of HIAM-Health, the MAF-SoL team developed a shorter 2-day nutrition and cooking training that was suited to women members of the 1,000+ Community Seed Production Groups (CSPGs) and focused on obtaining nutritional value from 11 more productive MAF-SoL varieties of the 5 staple crops (rice, maize, peanut, sweet potato and cassava).
The unanimous topic of choice was healthy cooking, culminating with a participatory cooking demonstration of recipes the MAF-SoL team developed using locally-sourced products. The training team acknowledges the benefits of hands-on, interactive learning where participants can see the immediate results of their work, “We believe involving CSPG members in the cooking process gives them practical experience and the chance to ask questions about what we’re doing” says Maria Fernandes, Gender Coordinator, “they can bring their new skills and knowledge back to their families and communities”.
Extensionist Amelica Carvalho says “We are thankful for the training provided by MAF-SoL to our women’s group. The farmers have many crops that they plant but they don’t realise the nutrition content. Now we have a better understanding of nutrition, especially in the crops that we plant. Also, we can provide nutritious food to our families”.
“In addition to improved food security, we also want our farmers and their families to have nutritional balance” says Anita Ximenes, Gender Assistant, “Through cooking demonstrations and training we aim to share information and experiences with farmers on how to cook with good nutritional balance, in a hygienic manner, in order to have healthy farming families”.
Combining practicality with local production and capacity building, the cooking was done on rocket stoves. Only metres away from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ahisaun runs a workshop of able-bodied and physically disabled craftspeople who produce these economic and sustainable cooking devices. Small and easy to transport, the stoves use limited amounts of wood and are suited to cooking outdoors.