Good eggs in Mozambique
Cooking demonstrations provided by the World Food Programme in the village of Doa nudge people towards more nutritious diets
By Arghanoon Farhikhtah
It’s early morning in Doa, central-western Mozambique. WFP and its partners are getting ready to set up another cooking demonstration, showcasing the importance of eggs as part of a nutritious diet.
With only a few minutes left until the event starts, more than 60 participants are here. The audience is made up of community leaders, mothers, fathers and children, all waiting curiously to hear what the facilitators will present today.
Cooking demos were piloted in Doa district in 2019, as a complement to the findings of the WFP-led nutrition analysis Fill the Nutrient Gap Mozambique published in 2018 — it found that while Mozambicans can afford a diet adequate in calories, few can afford a nutritious diet.
The analysis found that fresh foods, delivered through cash-based-transfers rather than in-kind assistance, would reduce costs of a nutritious diet. WFP Mozambique Country Office adopted the report’s recommendations into an operational programme in 2019 and started distributing eggs in the food basket. But that alone would not be sufficient for the communities to diversify their diets, some element of Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) was essential. SBCC is communications approaches, activities, and tools used to positively influence behaviours, in this case for improving health and nutrition.
As a result, the cooking demonstrations were introduced by WFP in 2019, and turned into a key activity for the nutrition-sensitive programme in Doa. Today, the cooking demonstration starts with facilitators calling out nutrition and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) messages through megaphones. To make sure the messages resonate with participants, selected audience members are asked to repeat the messages in their own words.
Then comes preparing locally available and nutritious foods, with a focus on eggs. Throughout the event, there are songs sung by all participants and facilitators about the importance of a diverse diet and WASH. All communication is done in the language of Cena.
Once the cooking demonstration is done, it’s time for the yummiest part: to taste the meals. Children and pregnant women are served first. A woman standing in line to be served says: “For us pregnant women, eggs are helping a lot. We get strength and when we have to deliver, we will have more blood to help with blood loss. The baby will also be born healthier”.
Eggs are nutrient-rich foods with the potential to improve nutrition, particularly for mothers and children during the first 1,000 days of life.
The nutrition-sensitive programme targeted households with pregnant and breastfeeding women, and children aged under 24 months in Doa. They were provided eggs through commodity vouchers and additionally, value vouchers, for any other food purchases at local shops.
‘Cooking with eggs has become a popular topic in the community since WFP’s project started, for women as well as men.’
After the tasting session, a group of men and women gather around to speak about the event. They explain that before the demonstrations, they used to make porridge with just water and maize flour. Now, they also add eggs, cassava leaves or carrots into the porridge to make it more nutritious.
The group mentions that cooking with eggs has become a popular topic in the community since WFP’s project started, for women as well as men. “One day, I came home from the field and saw my husband cooking one of the porridges we had learnt at the previous cooking demonstration,” says Lucia, a 25-year-old mother of two children.
The efforts of integrating a gender-sensitive lens are well apparent. Fathers and senior male community leaders are eager to share what they have learned. “Through these events, I have learnt that eggs are needed for pregnant women to produce enough blood and stay healthy,” says Rui, a father of five children.
The cooking demonstrations, which is a part of the Social and Behaviour Change Communication activity in this project, are informing community members how to make their diets more nutritious, especially with eggs, through different cooking techniques and recipes adapted to local context.
A critical task of the SBCC has been overcoming food taboos. They can at times be one of the main obstacles for consuming a diverse diet. Traditionally, eggs were prepared in a way that lowered the nutritious value: by boiling them until they broke.
“We thought that if a pregnant woman ate an egg, her child would be born bald” says Jorgeina, a young pregnant woman who has come to participate in the cooking demonstration. “From these events, we have learnt that eggs are good and will make a woman stronger when she’s pregnant”.
WFPs intervention in Doa showcases how evidence-based analysis has the potential to change and improve lives. The SBCC component including cooking demonstrations further illustrates the sustainability of the project, as community members adopt the information of making nutritious meals with locally available foods into their daily lives. Cyakulha cyadidi! (‘Have a nice meal!’ in the local language, Cena).
This project was made possible by generous funding from DFID, FFP/USAID and ECHO.