For Chianga School, change starts now – part 2

August 23rd, 2019

As well as providing safe water, sanitation and hygiene education for Chianga School and three neighbouring villages in Chimoio district, rural Mozambique, your support is also helping improve farming methods, crop production and accessibility of food for pupils and their families.

The problem

Many of the pupils from Chianga School come from three neighbouring villages, Chivumo, Chauranga and Chianga. The communities survive through farming but with no access to reliable safe water or sanitation illness and disease is common, and people have little time or energy to grow enough to feed their families as well as earning an income. Farmers use unsustainable agricultural methods and have little opportunity to learn new techniques to make the most of their land. Overproduction leaves soil damaged, natural habitats are destroyed, and land is degraded, making farming for future generations even harder.

In an average year, families are forced to reduce the quantity or size of their daily meals five months before the new harvest is due – this is known as ‘the hunger gap’.

11-year-old Brito is used to being hungry. There are 6 other mouths to feed at home there isn’t enough food to go around. He’s not alone, most of his friends tell the same story and the situation is just as bad at school. 

“I often feel hungry. There isn’t enough for all the pupils to eat. My stomach hurts and I ask the teacher permission to go home.”  

For Brito getting the nutrition he needs is almost impossible.

A lack of water worsens the situation, without it, farmers rely on seasonal rains to grow crops. To make matters worse unpredictable weather, most recently Cyclone Idai has resulted in poor harvest further increasing the hunger gap.

The impact of Idai

“My house crumbled” – Brito

Cyclone Idai, the most severe tropical cyclone to ever hit the Southern Hemisphere, devastated central Mozambique in March. Manica Province, where all 22 of our community projects were based in 2018, was the second worst affected areas: 26% of total temporary displacement sites were formed there, to protect around 24,419 people. Families in Chimoio (the capital of Manica) suffered badly as food supplies were wiped out, homes and livelihoods were destroyed leaving many reliant on food aid, and the threat of cholera and other waterborne illness rose quickly.

We launched an emergency appeal in response to Cyclone Idai, a week after it made landfall. You helped us raise £23,128 to get emergency items to help families who’d lost everything and prevent more deaths. Our local partners WATSAN worked with the local council and the National Institute of Disaster Management to identify communities in need and hand out over 950 cases of bottled water, 300 packs of sanitary towels, 4000 bars of soaps, as well as materials to help repair and rebuild damaged homes. In the UK we have also been raising funds to repair water points that were washed away by the cyclone.

How it affected Adelia

Mother and farmer Adelia told us her experience, 

“Our houses were destroyed by the Cyclone. I don’t have a proper place to sleep. All the maize we’d prepared was washed away. The maize which we have stored will not be adequate to last us until next year.”

Adelia’s life is tough. She wakes up at 4 to clean her house and collect water for her family to drink and bathe with, then she walks to the field. After a long day farming, she goes home to cook and look after her children. She said it is difficult when her family get ill. 

“I take them to the hospital but there is no transport. I have to carry them.”

Farming every day is hard. It is draining, exhausting, intense labour. But it is how her family survives. 

“I have been a farmer for 30 years. It is our only source of income. I grow maize but it is not enough to feed everyone.”

Like many female farmers in rural areas Adelia didn’t get to complete her education and cannot read or write and so often misses out on guidance on new farming practices, as it is written and circulated via leaflets.  She misses out on the chance to learn more effective farming techniques that would make her day easier and her land more productive.  

The biggest challenge I face in terms of farming is that the maize seed is no longer producing the same output as it used to.

How you’re helping

Your regular donations have helped fund food production workshops and agricultural training at Chianga School. Adelia and other farmers, along with 30 pupils from Chianga, are learning sustainable farming practices, including low cost irrigation, composting and improved seed variety.

We asked Adelia what she hoped to gain from this training. 

“Knowledge. I will apply everything I’ve learnt from the project in my own farm. So far, I’ve learnt how to properly prepare my land for planting. I have enjoyed the beetroot and carrots and will change what I grow at home after the training”. 

Training young people alongside farmers using an established ‘’learn by doing’’ approach known as “Farmers Fields” will give the farmers chance to share their traditional farming knowledge and experiences of what has and hasn’t worked for them historically with the younger generation whilst learning new skills. Applying those skills back at home means greater crop yield so they can become self-sufficient and earn a higher income through the sale of surplus crops.

Adelia being interviewed by field staff

Farmers and agricultural students learn new techniques for planting seeds

These educational classes will also reduce reliance on mass produced/imported foods as an essential step towards food security.  Training on how to properly store food is an important step to safeguard food supplies from future natural disasters like Cyclone Idai.

The students are using the new farming methods they’ve learned to establish school gardens, which will supplement school meals with diverse fruits and vegetables improving the diet and health of the entire school population, helping to tackle malnutrition long-term.

Ending malnutrition

3 million child deaths are associated with malnutrition, meaning nearly half of all children who die each year do so because they don’t have access to enough of the right food. Severe malnutrition from a young age can result in stunting, the impaired growth and development of a child. Stunting in early life, particularly up until the age of two, can result in long term consequences that carry on into adulthood, such as poor cognition and a weakened immune system, which can leave them economically disadvantaged and unable to work, or earn a living wage. Stunted children fall sick more often, miss out on opportunities to learn and perform worse at school. Stunting is largely irreversible.

To make sure the children of Chianga, who are potential future parents, and future generations in neighbouring communities are really benefiting from the project and able to prevent malnutrition and stunting we will be monitoring the vocational agricultural students using MUAC, a simple measurement and immensely helpful tool to identify and track malnourishment.

MUAC (mid-upper-arm-circumference) involves measuring the circumference of a patient’s arm at the midpoint between his or her shoulder blade. The band is colour coded at difference sections – red, orange and green – and how tight the band can go determines how malnourished the patience is – not malnourished, moderately malnourished and severely malnourished and at risk of death.

Children at Chianga who are identified using MUAC as red or orange (moderately or severely malnourished) will be targeted with treatment, given additional fruits and vegetables from the school gardens, or given ready-to-use-therapeutic-food (RUTF). These foods are high in fat and protein and fortified with the vitamins and minerals necessary to treat severe acute malnutrition. A few weeks of treatment with RUTF can bring about significant improvements.

The children of Chianga

Your support is training health workers how to record and monitor malnourishment using the MUAC system and providing equipment to help identify children in need of additional treatment. They will keep the kit so they can continue their work in other schools across the region.

Field staff interviewed some of the pupils enrolled in the agricultural training. They asked them questions about their school, family and home life, their health and what they thought about the new course.

Rosa is 11 years old. There are 9 people in her family, they all spend their time farming. She helps too when she’s not in school.

“Our crops were swept away by the water in Cyclone Idai. There isn’t enough food for all the pupils to eat at school each day.”

 “I already know how to plant maize. I wanted to be involved in the training to learn how vegetables are grown and go practice in the fields and teach others. The thing I most enjoy about the training is when we’re watering.”

Borge is 13 years old. Both his parents work in the fields. At school he most enjoys learning Portuguese and playing with his friends.

“I often feel hungry at school. My stomach hurts and I usually go home. I want to get involved in the agricultural training so that I can practice at home. I already know about watering and ploughing the land. My favourite thing about the training is planting seeds.”

We look forward to updating you next quarter with progress from Chianga School. Next step, a safe clean water source for the community!

Adelina is 13 years old. “I’d like to be a teacher when I’m older because I like to learn new things, that’s why I wanted to be involved in the training too. I want to gain more knowledge so that I can teach my grandmother. I have most enjoyed learning how to plant sorghum.” (a type of grain plant)

Thank you for being a part of the Pump Primer community and making this project happen with your regular gift.