Ayishetu Promotes Good Nutrition in Her Family and Community

By Patience Obour – Promoting Good Nutrition Program Officer

Ayishetu prepping the maize for the tom brown.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), proper infant nutrition is fundamental to a child’s developmental health. Feeding children correctly in the first two years of their lives is particularly important because of nutrition’s role in lowering morbidity and mortality, reducing the lifetime risk of chronic disease, and promoting healthy mental and physical development.

Although every infant and child has the right to good nutrition under the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, in many countries less than a fourth of infants have access to the required dietary diversity and feeding frequency. Inappropriate feeding practices contribute up to a third of all cases of child malnutrition.

Self-Help International’s Promoting Good Nutrition Program (PGN) team facilitates the Growing Healthy Food, Growing Healthy Children (GHFGHC) program, which is teaching mothers in rural Ghana the importance of good nutrition through nutrition education and food demonstrations. Self-Help’s team teaches the mothers about how some foods are more nutritious than others and helps them figure out healthy food options and recipes.

As part of Self-Help’s sustainability approach to ensure community ownership, partnering mothers participate fully in all of the activities. For example, mothers in GHFGHC are involved in the preparation of a food supplement called tom brown (a porridge that consists of Quality Protein Maize (QPM) and peanuts roasted and milled together). Pregnant and lactating women receive 700g of the tom brown every week. The tom brown is supposed to last mothers and infants an entire week, but many of the mothers end up using the tom brown for their families. This means the tom brown only ends up lasting a day or two.

One of the mothers partnering with GHFGHC, Ayishetu, experienced this challenge in her household.

Ayishetu confessed that her tom brown portion was not only feeding her infant in the program – it was also feeding his siblings. As a result, the 700g of tom brown lasted for a day in her house. She said her kids love the tom brown, and she decided to explore ways that she could have enough of the tom brown in her house.

Ayishetu making the tom brown.

Luckily, Ayishetu already had some QPM, so she only needed to purchase some peanuts from the market. Because of the training Ayishetu received on preparing tom brown and the help of Self-Help’s PGN team, Ayishetu had the knowledge and skills she needed to prepare the tom brown in her house to feed her family.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Ayishetu started giving out the tom brown to other people in her community of Kukuboso because the mandated lockdown in Ghana meant that people didn’t have enough at home to eat. Price increases at the market due to the quarantine took a toll on Ayishetu’s family budget, and she realized she could increase her income by selling the tom brown.

“I now sell some of the tom brown to other people in Kukuboso whose families have developed a taste for it, and I’m able to generate an alternative income,” Ayishetu said.