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Fighting malnutrition in Pakistan with innovation and hands-on learning

Better Nurition - Action Against Hunger

Zareena tending to her livestock. Photo: Khaula Jamil for Action Against Hunger, Pakistan

Zareena is a small-scale entrepreneur and young mother in Sindh province, Pakistan. Like many members of their community, she and her husband struggled to provide a nutritious diet for their children.

Although Pakistan is a major food producer, high poverty rates and limited food access mean that nearly 40% of the population is food insecure. Pakistan faces persistent drought and a high level of exposure to climate shocks like floods, heatwaves and locust infestations, leaving communities vulnerable to crop destruction and low yields and putting livelihoods at risk.

Through the Programme for Improvement in Nutrition in Sindh (PINS 3), Action Against Hunger and our partners are working to prevent malnutrition in Sindh province and help communities in flood and drought-prone areas reduce the risks of failed harvests triggered by climate change. Last year, we reached over 130,000 people in nearly 2,000 villages with our food security programs. These include livestock management, kitchen gardening, climate-resilient crop production and community fish farming, combined with practical training such as farmer field schools.

Action Against Hunger provides the households of pregnant or breastfeeding women with goats and poultry, ensuring families with young children have a healthy and sustainable food source. Zareena received two goats through the program. The milk they provide – an excellent source of nourishment, which is easily digested and nutritionally equivalent to breast milk – has provided a healthy boost to her own diet as well as her children’s. “Before, we did not have sufficient resources for feeding our children,” she says. “We are in a much better condition after we were provided with these goats.”

Our teams also support women working in the poultry sector to expand their operations, helping them weather the economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure a more food-secure future for their families. “Everyone faced financial problems during lockdown as daily wageworkers were badly affected,” says Rozina, another small-scale entrepreneur. “Only people with a monthly source of income were in a better position. We did not always have food due to unavailability, and we faced difficulty getting meat and eggs.” She notes that the market price of 20 rupees per egg, or approximately 16 cents, was far beyond her budget. Rozina received a rooster which she breeds with her three hens and now has a steady supply of eggs for her family. “We can now feed our children better and we are much happier,” she says.


Since receiving a rooster from Action Against Hunger, Rozina has been able to save food costs and improve her family’s diet. Photo: Khaula Jamil for Action Against Hunger, Pakistan

In addition to managing livestock, women in rural communities are taking a leading role in producing crops to support the nutritional needs of their families and improve dietary diversity. One major issue impacting agricultural production in Pakistan is soil salinity, where excess salt accumulates in the soil, suppressing plant growth and inhibiting the uptake of essential nutrients. In many cases, this makes it impossible for families to grow vegetables at home. An effective and affordable strategy to grow healthy crops is using vertical gardening systems constructed from locally sourced, recycled materials and filled with good quality soil. Working with facilitators from local communities, Action Against Hunger conducts practical sessions known as farmer field schools where women can learn about techniques to cultivate, harvest and conserve healthy crops at home.


A Farmer Field School participant waters the plants on the demonstration plot during a Kitchen Gardening session in Jamot Village. Photo: Khaula Jamil for Action Against Hunger, Pakistan

“As a result of this activity, community diets and eating habits have now changed,” says Rao Ayub Khan, Senior Technical Manager, Action Against Hunger. “The programme generated awareness amongst those who suffer from hunger and increased knowledge for food security and nutritious diet intakes for all.”

 


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