Ethiopia has managed to attain the Millennium development goals of halving under-five child malnutrition (MDG 1) and mortality (MDG 4) three years ahead. Yet, food security and malnutrition remain a staggering challenge for the country. According to the 2011 Demographic and Health Study, the prevalence of stunting among children is 44.4%, that of underweight children is 28.7% and wasting is 9.7%.
To address the issue, SNV Ethiopia’s Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development (GRAD) project works with 65,000 chronically food insecure households in four major regions of the country. These households face food shortage four to six months per year and are surviving on a government safety net programme which provides support either in cash or food. Hence the GRAD project was designed with the aim to 'graduate' these households from the government safety net programme by boosting their income through engagement in lucrative agricultural value chains and resilience building.
The GRAD project strategically promoted the value chain development of certain commodities that not only increased households' incomes but also improved their nutrition. From the start, selection criteria included short-season, drought resistant, highly nutritive commodities which also have high market demand. Through this process, pulses and potato value chains were selected - both found to be the cheapest foods available locally as well as key sources of proteins and carbohydrates.
To help farmers become surplus producers, GRAD first worked on improving existing agronomic practices by brokering knowledge with research centres and providing continuous training and coaching. For example, through the introduction of improved potato variety and improved husbandry, farmers’ productivity increased from 80 quintals to 300 quintals per hectare
Furthermore, nutritious recipes were promoted within the project’s nutrition component led by CARE. Through this nutrition programme, we worked closely with village associations (Village Economic and Social Association) to organise cooking demonstrations and trigger local discussions. This approach was instrumental in dealing with the negative cultural attitudes associated with pulse consumption. Farmers were able to test and see the value of different food items in their daily dietary intake.
The project also promoted the production of vegetables and engagement in poultry for household consumption and supported innovation in local processing of potato into potato flour (to be added to bread in combination with other grains - a new, alternative way of consuming potato).
Beyond satisfying household consumption, GRAD enabled households to access lucrative markets, contributing to food security and improved nutrition. The approach was instrumental in attaining a better nutritional status for the households. Now after 5 years of implementation, more than 73% of the target households 'graduated' from the government safety net programme, reaching the minimum income and asset threshold.
Watch how this Ethiopian family moved from food subsidy to food security through smallholding.