Since 2014, IITA has been implementing the “Integrated approach to improve the nutrition status of women and children under two years through nutrition-sensitive agriculture in Eastern Luapula, and northern provinces of Zambia.” It is a project supported by the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Fund, in collaboration with the Development Aid from People to People (DAPP). The SUN Fund is managed by CARE International and funded by UKAid, Irish Aid, and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). It is under the overall administration by Zambia’s National Food and Nutrition Commission.
Called the SUN project, it is basically a nutrition-through-agriculture initiative that aims to enhance the nutrition and health status of 12,000 children under two years and 3000 pregnant or lactating women in poor smallholder farming communities in the target provinces. It is done through more diversified crop production, dietary diversification, and consumption of nutrient-rich crops such as legumes, fruit, and vegetables. The project provided seeds of nutrient-rich crops and farm inputs, as well as conducted training on the production of nutrientdense crops, best agronomic practices, postharvest and storage techniques, cooking methods, diet diversification, and basic nutrition.
As the SUN project was winding up in late-2016, IITA conducted an evaluation of its effectiveness through a survey of it beneficiaries. An important measure in this evaluation is the SUN’s training component. Specifically, IITA assessed the role of training and awareness creation in building the capacities and transferring technologies to SUN’s beneficiaries. The evaluation also explored the prospects for sustaining the project’s efforts after it closes down.
About 95% of those surveyed perceived that the SUN’s training activities assisted them, particularly the pregnant and lactating women, to grow different types of nutritious crops and to improve the consumption of nutritious food among their children, contributing to the reduction of stunting (Table 1).
Respondents who indicated that they attended SUN-facilitated training in the past 24 months were further asked to state the type of training they attended (Table 2). The survey found that the SUN project was the main provider of training among farm households in the intervention areas while the government (Ministry of Agriculture) and other entities provided training for those in nonintervention areas.
IITA also measured the effectiveness of the training sessions in terms of the beneficiaries’ actual use of the knowledge and skills that they learned. Table 3 shows the distribution of respondents by level of knowledge and ability to practice what was learned in training sessions. Over 93% of the respondents indicated that their knowledge level improved while about 95% said that they practice what they have learned.
The surveys revealed that the SUN’s training activities positively contributed to the marked improvement in the diversity of food being produced by mothers of child-bearing age involved in the project. Furthermore, the evaluation recommended that the project’s efforts be continued beyond its two-year lifespan or a similar one be implemented that will use the lessons learned in this project. It is recommended, though, that it should run for a minimum of three years for implementers and beneficiaries to realize more concrete results.