The Nutrition Security Program (NSP) and Universite Laval (AKOSAA - Enhancing and Building Capacity for Increased Food Security in Haiti) teams in Saint-Marc, Artibonite, organized a community health and agriculture fair on May 1st 2015 to promote health and nutrition among adolescents, women, children, and men. The activity received tremendous support and response from the general population, local community-based organizations, and government entities as well as school-age children.
NSP and AKOSAA invited the Mother Leaders, men, and adolescent youth from the communities to present their products and talents during the fair. Messages on the benefits of breastfeeding, the three main food groups and diet diversity, hygiene and Oral Rehydration Salts, were broadcasted all day while fresh and healthy products were displayed under a series of tents installed on the grounds of a public school. The director of the secondary school mobilized the students to participate in the health fair, particularly in the lectures and group discussions on nutrition and agriculture. A variety of exhibits were present; The Artibonite Valley Development Organization (ODVA) displayed cereal mills, improved seeds, and other equipment used to plow the soil of rice farms. Mother Leaders and neighbors presented specialties and nutritious foods available in their region. AKOSAA prepared different recipes with local and improved products grown in Artibonite. Participants also appreciated the variety of products available on the tables or in the large woven baskets accompanying the displays. The visitors were happy and curious to discover new tastes when lunch was served. The positive and encouraging feedback showed NSP and AKOSAA staff that the health fair and similar activities could be a powerful tool for behavior change and increased health communication within the community.
At the end of the day, ODVA director agronomist Franco granted NSP 2 kilograms of lima bean seeds. NSP planted the lima beans in the nurseries established in Artibonite in order to disseminate the plants and reach more households. Other individuals in the targeted communities also received a handful of lima bean seeds to plant in their kitchen gardens. The lima bean crop grows very well and soon more families will be able to grow, harvest, and diversify their diet with fresh beans. Lima beans are larger than pigeon peas and have a flat kidney-shape. Most people enjoy their rich buttery texture and sweet flavor particularly when paired with rice and Haitian mushrooms (Djondjon). Lima beans are also important sources of plant proteins and contain a substantial amount of fiber. The variety donated by ODVA is the small lima bean which is a bush type and is developed 65-80 days after seeding. This donation will allow Mother Leaders to increase their production of lima beans in kitchen gardens. The availability of lima beans in the communities represents a significant offer of vegetable-rich protein to increase the opportunities for diet diversity and improve nutritional status. While the vine type of lima beans exists in some parts of Artibonite, it takes little longer to mature - 80-90 days. The short cycle small lima bean represents an important option for families with limited access to water because this type of bean can be harvested earlier.
When the next health fair is organized in Artibonite or elsewhere in Haiti, lima beans can be positioned as a good option for protein-rich plant food and can be promoted as a fresh or cooked vegetable. More recipes will be adapted to include this ingredient because it can deliver enough protein for the whole family, particularly to pregnant and lactating women and children under five.
Moving forward, NSP, with partners like AKOSAA, can work to identify new and improved food options in Artibonite and adapt them to the techniques of intensive cultivation in small areas. Plant foods that are highly nutritious, drought- and disease-resistant, and also have short crop-cycles, present a viable and affordable option for low-income, vulnerable families and communities.
Interested in making Djondjon? Try this recipe for Black Mushroom Rice with Shrimp!
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