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Stopping a silent killer February 12th, 2017 by

Mycotoxins are poisons produced by common mold fungi. The best known examples are aflatoxins, produced by Aspergillus, which are of increasing concern worldwide because they contaminate  many types of stored foods, including groundnuts (peanuts), manioc, maize (corn) and chilli. Aflatoxins affect the health of people and animals and are powerful carcinogens if  enough is consumed. Like many successful poisons, aflatoxins are invisible and tasteless, so they are tricky to manage.

sorting groundnutsThe other week, I was in Chuquisaca, Bolivia, with Paul and Marcella from Agro-Insight, making a video for farmers on how to manage molds and reduce contamination of food. Part of the solution is surprisingly low-tech.

The first step is to recognize the molds. They look like a dark green powder, growing between the pink skin of the peanuts and the white layer of the shell around them. Farmer Dora Campos explains that the people in her village, Achiras, used to dismiss the molds, saying simply that the pods were rotten. Farmers would salvage the bad nuts by feeding them to pigs or chickens, and some people would even eat the rotten nuts. Thanks to what they’ve learned in recent years, the villagers now bury the spoiled peanuts.

Aspergillus survives on organic matter in the soil, within easy reach of peanut pods, for example. Antonio Medina showed us how he dried his peanut pods off the ground, as soon as they are harvested, to stop the mold contaminating them. This keeps the nuts as clean and dry as possible.

Like most fungi, Aspergillus needs water to thrive. Don Antonio shows us how the farmers pick through the whole pile of harvested peanuts, after drying, when the pods are cleaner and the bad ones are easier to spot. The farmers go through the harvest one pod at a time, discarding all of the spoiled or discolored pods. It takes time, but it is a technique that smallholders can use to produce a high-quality product, based on thoughtfulness and hard work.

Agronomist Edwin Mariscal is trying a simple solar dryer with many of the farmers he works with. Mr. Mariscal introduces us to Santiago Gutiérrez, who has built one of the dryers: a wooden frame raised off the ground and covered with a sheet of tough, sun-resistant plastic. Mr. Mariscal has been working with similar dryers in the field, with farmers for years. The dryers started as a metal version for drying peaches, but experience showed that the dryers worked just as well if they were made from wooden poles cut on the farm.

Don Santiago, and his wife Emiliana, explain that the dryer works beautifully. Peanuts dry even in the rain. The family can also put maize and chilli into the structure, to dry those foods free of aflatoxin.

You can keep deadly aflatoxins out of food by following a few simple principles, including harvesting on time (not too late, or the Aspergillus has more time to get into the pods). Keep the produce off the ground. Dry it out of the rain and remove the moldy pieces. Store produce in a cool, dry place, off the floor.

Ackowledgement 

Thanks to Fundación Valles for information for this article, and for supporting our filming in the field.

Further viewing

Sign up for the D-group at Access Agriculture to get an alert when this video is posted on www.accessagriculture.org.

EVITAR UN ASESINO SILENCIOSO

Por Jeff Bentley, 12 de febrero del 2017

Las micotoxinas son venenos producidos por mohos de hongos comunes. Los ejemplos más conocidos son aflatoxinas, producidas por Aspergillus, que son de interés actual porque contaminan muchas clases de alimentos almacenados, incluso manís (cacahuates), yuca, maíz y chile (ají). Las aflatoxinas afectan la salud de la gente y de los animales y son  cancerígenos poderosos si se consume lo suficiente. Como muchos venenos exitosos, las aflatoxinas son invisibles y sin sabor, entonces son difíciles de manejar.

maize, chilli and groundnut in solarLa otra semana, estuve en Chuquisaca, Bolivia, con Paul y Marcella de Agro-Insight, haciendo un video para agricultores sobre cómo manejar mohos y reducir la contaminación de los alimentos. Felizmente, parte de la solución es el uso de tecnología apropiada.

El primer paso es reconocer a los mohos. Parecen un polvo verdusco oscuro, que crece entre la piel roja del maní y la capa blanca de la cáscara. La agricultora Dora Campos explica que antes, la gente de su comunidad, Achiras, no daba importancia a los mohos, diciendo simplemente que  las vainas estaban podridas. Los agricultores rescataban los manís malos, dándoles de comer a sus chanchos o gallinas, y algunas personas hasta comían los granos podridos. Gracias a lo que han aprendido en los últimos años, ahora los comuneros saben enterrar los granos podridos.

Aspergillus sobrevive en la materia orgánica del suelo, al alcance de las vainas de maní, por ejemplo. Antonio Medina nos mostró cómo él secaba sus vainas en un toldo al cosecharlas, para evitar que el moho las contamine. Eso ayuda a mantener a los manís limpios y secos. Como la mayoría de los hongos, el Aspergillus necesita agua para vivir.

Don Antonio nos muestra cómo los agricultores escogen todos los manís cosechados, después de secarlos, cuando las vainas son más limpias y es más fácil ver las malas. Los agricultores revisan toda su cosecha, una vaina a la vez, descartando las vainas malas o descoloridas. Toma tiempo, pero es una técnica que los campesinos pueden usar para producir un producto de alta calidad, trabajando en forma consciente.

El Ing. Edwin Mariscal está probando un simple secador solar con varias familias. El Ing. Mariscal nos presenta a Santiago Gutiérrez, que ha construido uno de los secadores: una tarima de palos como una mesa, cubierto de una hoja de plástico fuerte y resistente al sol. El Ing. Mariscal ha trabajado con secadores parecidos en el campo, con agricultores, durante varios años. Los secadores empezaron como una versión metálica para secar duraznos, pero la experiencia mostró que los secadores funcionaban igual si se hacían de palos cortados en la zona.

Don Santiago, y su esposa Emiliana, explican que el secador funciona bien bonito. Los manís secan hasta en la lluvia. La familia también lo usa para secar maíz y ají, para evitar aflatoxina en ellos.

Se puede mantener los alimentos libres de las aflatoxinas letales siguiendo unos principios sencillos, como cosechar a tiempo (no muy tarde, o el Aspergillus tendrá más tiempo para entrar a las vainas). No secar el producto en el suelo. Evitar que entre la lluvia al producto y saque las piezas podridas. Almacene en un lugar seco y fresco, no en el piso.

Agradecimiento

La Fundación Valles nos proporcionó información para este artículo, y apoyó nuestra filmación en el campo.

Para ver más

Puede inscribirse para el D-group en Access Agriculture para recibir una alerta cuando este video se suba al www.accessagriculture.org.

 

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Crop with an attitude January 29th, 2017 by

A plant has a personality and, like people and countries, some have stronger characters than others. Take the lupin bean (Lupinus mutabilis), for example. It is an oddly erect legume that forms a sort of cone shape, and its glorious flowers make the plant wildly popular with gardeners in many countries. In Bolivia it is called “tarwi”, from Quechua, the language of the Incas.

tarwi in bloomWhile making a video in Bolivia, my colleagues and I asked doña Eleuteria in the village of Phinkina to tell us what she planted after harvesting tarwi. She surprised me by saying that sometimes she followed tarwi with potatoes. That’s astounding, because potatoes are such a demanding crop that Andean farmers often rest the soil for years before planting a field to potatoes. Otherwise the soil may be improved by adding tons of chicken manure. Bolivian farmers in the Andes don’t buy manure for other crops, just the fussy and valuable potato.

I followed up by asking Reynaldo Herbas, from the village of Tijraska, if he had ever planted potatoes right after tarwi. “Yes, and it does very well. Planting tarwi is like fallowing your soil, or like using chicken manure,” he explained.

Tarwi seeds are also rich in oils and proteins and doña Eleuteria regularly feeds lupin beans to her children. Like some other Bolivians doña Eleuteria make a nutritious snack by boiling the seeds, but it’s a lot of work. The grains need to be soaked in water for three days before boiling, then left in the running water of the river for several days to wash out the bitter alkaloids.

Agronomist Juan Vallejos from Proinpa (a research institute) confirmed that tarwi takes a lot of water to process. This is ironic, because tarwi is recommended for dry areas with impoverished soils. Sweet varieties without the bitter alkaloids do exist, but in Bolivia the search for these sweet lupins is only just starting.

sorting tarwi or lupine seedWhile visiting doña Eleuteria to learn about processing seed, she showed us how to pick out the bad grains of tarwi, to ensure that the crop planted from them would be healthy. (The main disease is anthracnose, caused by the fungus Colletotrichum gloeosporioides). We asked doña Eleuteria what she did with the diseased grains. We thought that she might say that she buried them to keep the disease from spreading. But no, she buries the discarded grains because raw lupin beans are toxic, whether they are healthy or diseased.

“I do bury them,” she explained, “because they are so bitter that if the chickens eat them they will die.”

Agronomist Vallejos explained that tarwi plants are so packed with alkaloids that sheep and cattle will not touch a crop growing in the field. However, the lupin plant is drought resistant and even withstands hail, which often mows down other food crops in the Andes. Local governments in Bolivia are starting to promote tarwi as a way of adapting to climate change.

A plant may have a complex personality, with sterling qualities as well as some tragic defects. Tarwi or lupin is in many ways a perfect crop: well-suited to the punishing climate of the High Andes while nutritious for people and good for the soil. The downside is that you need lots of water to process the beans and to leach out the poisons that can kill your unsuspecting chickens.

Acknowledgements

For this story in Cochabamba, Bolivia, I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by Paul Van Mele and Marcella Vrolijks of Agro-Insight and Juan Vallejos and Maura Lazarte and others from Proinpa. The visit was funded by the McKnight Foundation.

Further reading

Calisaya, J.J.,  M. Lazarte, R. Oros, P. Mamani 2016 “Desarrollo Participativo de Innovaciones Tecnológicas para Incrementar la Productividad de los Suelos Agrícolas en Regiones Andinas Deprimidas de Bolivia.” Read at the Community of Practice meeting, McKnight Foundation, Ibarra, Ecuador 11-16 July. See the paper here.

Further viewing

The farmer training video “Growing a good lupine crop” will be hosted on the Access Agriculture website shortly in English, Spanish, Quechua and Aymara.

CULTIVO CON CARÁCTER FUERTE

Por Jeff Bentley

29 de enero del 2017

Una planta tiene una personalidad, y como la gente y los países, algunos tienen más carácter que otros. Considere el lupino (Lupinus mutabilis), por ejemplo. Es una leguminosa que crece casi en forma de cono, y gracias a sus flores gloriosas la planta es querida por jardineros en muchos países. En Bolivia se llama “tarwi”, del quechua, el idioma de los Incas.

Mientas mis colegas y yo filmábamos un video en Bolivia, pedimos que doña Eleuteria en la comunidad de Phinquina nos contara qué sembraba después de cosechar el tarwi. Ella nos sorprendió cuando dijo que a veces sembraba papa después del tarwi. Es increíble, porque las papas son tan exigentes que muchos agricultores andinos descansan el suelo durante años antes de sembrar papas. Si no, el suelo tendrá que mejorarse agregando toneladas de gallinaza. Los agricultores en los Andes bolivianos no compran gallinaza para otros cultivos, solo la mimada y valiosa papa.

Luego le pregunté a Reynaldo Herbas de la comunidad de Tijraska, si él jamás había sembrado papas después del tarwi. “Sí, y produce muy bien. El sembrar tarwi es como descansar sus suelo, o como usar gallinaza,” explicó.

Marcella films Eleuteria soaking tarwiLos granos de tarwi son ricos en aceites y proteínas y doña Eleuteria a menudo los da de comer a sus hijos. Igual que algunas otras bolivianas, doña Eleuteria hace una merienda nutritiva con los granos cocidos, pero cuesta mucho trabajo. Los granos tienen que remojarse en agua durante tres días antes de cocerse, para después dejarlos en el chorro del río durante varios días más para expulsar los amargos alcaloides.

El Ing. Agrónomo Juan Vallejos de Proinpa (un instituto de investigación) confirmó que el tarwi toma mucha agua para procesarse. Es irónico, porque el tarwi se recomienda para zonas secas con suelos empobrecidos. Existen variedades dulces, sin los alcaloides amargos, pero en Bolivia recién empieza la búsqueda por esos lupinos dulces.

Cuando visitamos a doña Eleuteria para aprender cómo ella procesa la semilla, nos mostró cómo quitar los granos malos de tarwi, para asegurarse que el cultivo que siembra será sano. (La enfermedad principal es la antracnosis, causada por el hongo Colletotrichum gloeosporioides). Preguntamos a doña Eleuteria qué hacía con los granos enfermos. Pensábamos que diría que los enterraba para que las enfermedades no se diseminaran. Pero no, ella entierra a los granos descartados porque los granos crudos de tarwi son tóxicos, bien sea sanos o enfermos.

Eleuteria Sanchez burries bad lupine seed as chicken will die if they eat it“Los entierro,” explicó, “porque son tan amargos que si las gallinas se los comen podrían morirse.”

El Ing. Vallejos explicó que las plantas de tarwi están tan cargadas de alcaloides que las ovejas y vacas no tocan al cultivo en la parcela. Sin embargo, la planta de tarwi es resistente a la sequía y hasta aguanta a la granizada, que a menudo arrasa con otros cultivos en los Andes. Los gobiernos locales en Bolivia empiezan a promover el tarwi como una adaptación al cambio climático.

Una planta puede tener una personalidad compleja, con cualidades de oro igual que algunos defectos trágicos. El tarwi o lupino en muchas maneras en el cultivo perfecto: bien adaptado a los desafíos del clima altoandino, mientras es nutritivo para la gente y bueno para el suelo. Su lado oscuro es que requiere de mucha agua para lavar los venenos que pueden matar a tus gallinas inocentes.

Agradecimientos

Para escribir este cuento en Cochabamba, Bolivia, tuve la buena suerte de estar acompañado de Paul Van Mele y Marcella Vrolijks de Agro-Insight y Juan Vallejos y Maura Lazarte y otros de Proinpa. La visita se financió por la McKnight Foundation.

Para leer más

Calisaya, J.J.,  M. Lazarte, R. Oros, P. Mamani 2016 “Desarrollo Participativo de Innovaciones Tecnológicas para Incrementar la Productividad de los Suelos Agrícolas en Regiones Andinas Deprimidas de Bolivia.” Trabajo presentado en la reunión de la Comunidad de Práctica, McKnight Foundation, Ibarra, Ecuador 11-16 de julio. Ver la presentación aquí.

Para ver más

El video educativo para agricultores “Producir tarwi sin enfermedad” se colocará pronto en el sitio web de Agriculture en inglés, español, quechua y aymara.

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Why people drink cow’s milk January 15th, 2017 by

Nutritionists and physicians have started to question milk-drinking, suggesting that many consumers eat far too much dairy. Dr. Michael Klaper has even suggested that milk is just “baby calf growth fluid”, designed to “turn a 65 pound calf into a 400 pound cow”, and that unless you have long ears and a tail, you should never drink the white stuff (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toZ7Mr-ClCE).

In other words, Dr. Klaper argues that cow´s milk should be avoided because it was designed as calf food. But his reasoning is absurd reductionism, because most of what humans eat was meant to be something else, not people food. Wheat grains were intended to be seed, not flour. Honey is supposed to tide the hive over the lean season, not to be added to pastry. Fish certainly did not evolve so that people could make sushi.

sun, cow, strange toolSo why do people eat dairy products?

Before agriculture, all humans were hunters-and-gatherers. They ate meat when they could (but seldom as much as people who get their food from the supermarket). They ate a bit of fat (wild animals can be pretty lean). Fish were part of the diet in many places and so were insects in a few areas where other sources of animal protein were scarce. Honey was occasionally on the menu, but no processed sugar. Some grains were eaten, but not much, because large-seeded grasses were not very common in the wild. The ancestral human diet was mostly fruit, nuts, roots, tubers and vegetables, and no milk.

peris Njenga dairy farmerThis began to change about 8500 BC when wheat and a handful of other crops were dom
esticated in the Near East (Zohary et al. 2012). Studies at the site of Çatal Hüyük, in what is now Turkey, suggest that farmers began to domesticate cattle at that same time. But the transition to agriculture was gradual, and early farmers still hunted; most of their meat still came from the wild. Livestock only began to provide most of the meat for Near Eastern farmers about 7500 BC, around 1000 years after the beginning of animal domestication (Helmer and Vigne 2007). It seems that then as now, farmers were adapting gradually, experimenting as they went.

loading milk cans on wagonDaniel Helmer (a specialist in the ancient Near East) and Jean-Denis Vigne (a zoo-archaeologist) suggest that during these early centuries of animal rearing, domestic animals were not kept so much for their meat, but for other products like traction, skin, hair, and manure, but most of all for milk. Archaeological evidence (especially remains of milk residues on pottery sherds) suggests that dairying was established by about 7000 BC in the Near East, and by about 5900-5700 BC in Britain, and in central Europe (Helmer and Vigne 2007).
Over the centuries, ancient farmers selected for cows that gave more milk. The modern dairy cow yields around 40 liters of milk a day during the first month of lactation, far more than the calf can drink. Milking allowed farmers to take food from their livestock every day, without killing the animals. The milk was rich in fat and protein, both of which were scarce in early agricultural diets.

piles of cheeseThere was one problem with ancient dairying; most people could not digest lactose, the natural sugar in milk. Human babies can digest the lactose in their mothers’ milk, but most lose this ability in adulthood.

Humans managed to eat milk products in two ways. One was to make cheese or other fermented products, where the yeast or lacto-bacteria broke down the lactose. The second way: some peoples evolved a genetic ability to absorb lactose, a trait governed by a single, dominant gene. Anthropologist William Durham asked why people would evolve the ability to digest fresh milk, if they could simply make it into easily digestible cheese. There must be a high adaptive advantage to being able to digest fresh milk, since in some populations, e.g. in Northern Europe, nearly 100% of the population has the genetic ability to digest fresh milk. It turns out that fresh milk is rich in vitamin D, which allows easy absorption of calcium. Durham reasons that this conferred a special advantage on people in cold countries, where they did not always get enough sunlight to synthesize their own vitamin D.

Fulani woman selling snacksIt is also possible that when people had been raising cows for centuries, and milk was abundant, people who could drink fresh milk were better fed than their neighbors, and so the milk-drinking gene spread through the population. That is my guess, but there is no doubt that the modern people who can drink milk are the ones whose ancestors tended cows in ancient Europe, Africa or South Asia.

If your ancestors were not dairying folks, you may be lactose intolerant. If you can drink milk, you can thank your forbearers who herded cows and put milk on the table.

Further reading

Durham, William H. 1991 Coevolution: Genes, Culture and Human Diversity. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Pp. 228-259.

Helmer Daniel and Jean-Denis Vigne 2007 “Was Milk a ‘Secondary Product’ in the Old World Neolithisation Process? Its Role in the Domestication of Cattle, Sheep and Goats.” Anthropozoologica 42(2):9-40.

Zohary, Daniel, Maria Hopf and Ehud Weiss 2012 Domestication of Plants in the Old World: The Origin and Spread of Domesticated Plants in South-west Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean Basin (Fourth Edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Further viewing

Access Agriculture has a small collection of videos for small-scale dairy farmers.

Pure milk is good milk ; Keeping milk free from antibiotics ;  Managing cattle ticks; Taking milk to the collection center ; Keeping milk clean and fresh ;  Hand milking of dairy cows

Related blog stories on the prehistory of food

The sugar palms of Angkor Wat, The sunflower: From Russia with love, and oil

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New crops for Mr. Mpinda September 18th, 2016 by

A good video, one that lets farmers tell about their innovations, can spark the viewers’ imagination. A video can even convince smallholders to try a new crop.

mpinda-wateringLester Mpinda is an enterprising farmer in Mwanza, Malawi. Mpinda has a vegetable garden, known as a dimba, which is irrigated with water from a hand-dug well. A dimba is hard work, but worth it.

Mpinda grows vegetables, and sells them in the market in Mwanza. In 2013, he was able to use his earnings to buy a small, gasoline-powered pump to water his beans, onions and tomatoes. A $100 pump is a major investment for a Malawian smallholder, but also a great way to save time and avoid the backbreaking labor of carrying water from the well to the plants during the long, hot dry season.

mpinda-marches-up-to-get-the-hoseWith the money earned from his productive dimba, Mpinda bought a small stand, where his wife sells vegetables in the village.

In June 2015, Ronald Kondwani Udedi left some DVDs with videos at a government telecentre managed by Mathews Kabira, near Mwanza, Malawi. The DVDs had learning videos for farmers about growing rice and chilli peppers and managing striga, the parasitic weed.

handful-of-chilliesMathews took one set of DVDs to Mpinda, because he was “a successful farmer. Mpinda had a DVD player, but no TV, so he watched the videos on chilli growing at a neighbor’s house, using the neighbors TV and Mpinda’s DVD player. He watched the videos as often as the neighbor would let him. The more he watched, the more he learned.

Mpinda soon recognized the possibilities of chilli as a crop, even though he had never grown it.

To start a new crop you need more than a bright idea; you need seed. Getting chilli seed took some imagination. Mpinda went to the market and bought 20 small fresh chillies for 100 Kwacha (14 cents) and then dried them, like tomatoes, and planted the little seeds in a nursery, just like he had seen in the video. Mpinda had already been used to making seedbeds for onions and some of his other vegetables. At 21 days he transplanted the chilli seedlings, as he had seen on the videos.

lester-chizumeni-mpinda-in-gardenNow Mpinda has several dozen plants of chillies, a perennial variety which is eaten fresh in Malawi. People cut up the fiery chilli at table, to add some zest to meals.

Every few days Mpinda harvests three or four kilos of chillies and takes them to the market and sells them for 1000 kwacha a kilo ($1.40).

Mpinda has already planned his next step. After harvesting his little patch of eggplant, he is going to clear the land and plant a whole garden of chilli.

Mpinda has also watched the DVD of rice videos, and although no one in the area grows rice, he realizes that the crop would do well in the slightly higher space, just above his rows of vegetables. He has already looked for rice seed: there is none to be found in Mwanza and the agro-dealers won’t or can’t order it for him, so he is going to travel to the city of Zomba, 135 km away, and buy rice seed there. Mpinda has already identified the major rice varieties grown in Malawi and decided that one of them, Apasa, is the best for highland areas like his.

He is going to plant rice in October, possibly becoming the first rice farmer in Mwanza district.

Mpinda didn’t watch the rice and chilli videos as part of a farmer group. He didn’t have an extensionist to answer questions. He simply had the videos which he could (and did) watch several times to study the content. And this information alone was enough to inspire him to experiment with two crops that were entirely new to him.

Further viewing

You can watch the chilli videos in English here: http://www.accessagriculture.org/search/chilli/all/

And in Chichewa here: http://www.accessagriculture.org/search/chilli/ny/

You can watch the rice videos in English here: http://www.accessagriculture.org/search/rice/en/

And in Chichewa here: http://www.accessagriculture.org/search/rice/ny/

These videos and others are also available in other languages at www.accessagriculture.org

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How to feed babies August 28th, 2016 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

While writing a video script, the author must find out what motivates people, as we were reminded recently while visiting Bolivian farmers to get their ideas on childhood malnutrition.

wawa k'irusqaAgriculture and nutrition are linked in unusual ways. A 2012 study by Cornell University nutritionist Andy Jones, and colleagues, in northern Potosí, Bolivia, found that boosting farm production came at a cost. If new farming techniques increase the work load of young mothers, they may not have the time to feed their youngest children often enough. The toddlers can suffer if their mothers are working too hard and too long.

One of Jones’s colleagues in that study was an experienced and perceptive Bolivian nutritionist named Yesmina Cruz. She said that in this part of the Andes, some local beliefs were harmful for babies. For example, mothers believed that if the babies went without food when they were small, they would grow up to be able to withstand hunger when they were big. So the mothers would avoid giving the breast to their newborns for several days, until after losing the colostrum, the rich, yellowish milk that should be a baby’s first, nutritious meal. The mothers did not feed their babies often enough and would often start them too soon on supplementary foods, like soups or mush.

Younger mothers are changing how they bring up their children, but some of the old ideas persist.

Early in August, I had a chance to work with Yesmina again, as she wrote a fact sheet and a video script on mother’s milk. The first day of the course, Yesmina outlined her main suggestions: start breastfeeding on the day the baby is born, give mothers’ milk (and nothing else) for the first six months, and keep breastfeeding the baby for at least the first two years.

Last week, our blog story Learning from students told about how our course starts by writing a fact sheet and taking it to a community to read.

During the script writing course, Yesmina had the wisdom to interview men too, not just mothers. But the men were less interested in reading about breastfeeding, because they saw it as women’s business.

While writing her draft video script, Yesmina visited the village of Phinkina, near Anzaldo, Cochabamba, and met with three mothers to learn more about their experiences with breastfeeding. Their children had grown up and Yesmina wanted to test some of her ideas and see how to help new mothers.

Yesmina explained that the main sign of malnutrition was that the babies were small for their age (something a mother may not always realize, especially when malnutrition is widespread). Malnutrition in toddlers can be easily avoided by proper breastfeeding. To Yesmina’s surprise, the women didn’t think it was a problem if their children were smaller than expected in their early years. “They can eat when they are youths,” one of the women explained. (Although in fact, children never fully recover from poor development in early years).

On the other hand, the mothers were obsessed with school. They wanted their kids to do well in school and to finish it.

Yesmina realized that talking about school could be a way to get moms, and dads, interested in milk for babies, by explaining that mother’s milk helps children grow healthier minds and bodies, so they can do better in school.

By the end of the week, the script had grown from three topics to five:

  1. Eat well when you are pregnant. Here too it will be crucial to get men motivated, to encourage their wives, daughters and daughters-in-law to eat better food during pregnancy, and to help them ease up on their workload.
  2. Start breast feeding as soon as the baby is born.
  3. Only give the baby breast milk until 6 months of age.
  4. Introduce supplementary feeding at 6 months.
  5. Continue breast feeding until the baby is at least 2 years old.

Now the draft script explains that colostrum is the first food that feeds the baby’s brain and that babies who are well fed on breast milk will grow up to be children who perform better in school.

A simple task, writing some tips for breastfeeding, turns out to be more complex (but also more rewarding) when the author invites members of her target audience to read and comment on an early draft. Academics are used to sharing drafts of their papers with colleagues. When writing for a popular audience, it can be just as useful to share drafts with community members.

Further reading

Cruz Agudo, Yesmina, Andrew D. Jones, Peter R. Berti, Sergio Larrea Macías 2010 “Lactancia Materna, Alimentación Complementaria y Malnutrición Infantil en los Andes de Bolivia.” Archivos Latinoamericanos de Nutrición 60(1):7-14. http://www.scielo.org.ve/pdf/alan/v60n1/art02.pdf

Jones, Andrew D., Yesmina Cruz Agudo, Lindsay Galway, Jeffery Bentley, & Per Pinstrup-Andersen 2012 “Heavy Agricultural Workloads and Low Crop Diversity are Strong Barriers to Improving Child Feeding Practices in the Bolivian Andes.” Social Science & Medicine 75 (9):1673-1684.http://www.jefferybentley.com/Heavy%20Agricultural%20Workloads.pdf

“Learning to eat,” a one-page summary of Jones et al. http://www.agroinsight.com/downloads/in-the-field/summary-Learning-to-eat-Extension-Methods-4.pdf

Further viewing

You can watch a video on how to make food for toddlers from ingredients found in a West African village at: http://www.accessagriculture.org/enriching-porridge

And a video on helping women recover from childbirth at:

http://www.accessagriculture.org/helping-women-recover-after-childbirth

 

CÓMO DAR DE COMER A LOS BEBÉS

28 de agosto del 2016

Por Jeff Bentley

La autora de un guion de video debe averiguar qué motiva a la gente, el cual volvimos a acordarnos recientemente al visitar a productores bolivianos para conocer sus ideas sobre la desnutrición infantil.

baby and mom in Yurac CanchaLa agricultura y la nutrición están vinculadas de maneras complicadas. Un estudio en el 2012 por el nutricionista de la Cornell University, Andy Jones, y colegas en el Norte de Potosí, Bolivia, encontró que un aumento en la producción agrícola tenía un costo. Si nuevas técnicas en el agro aumentan la carga de trabajo de las madres jóvenes, ellas no siempre tienen tiempo para dar de comer con suficiente frecuencia a sus niños más

pequeños. Los chiquillos pueden sufrir si sus mamás están trabajando muy duro y por mucho tiempo.

Una de las colegas de Jones en ese estudio era Yesmina Cruz, una nutricionista boliviana experimentada y sensible. Ella dice que en esta parte de los Andes, algunas creencias locales son dañinas para los bebés. Por ejemplo, las mamás creían que si a sus bebés les faltaba comida cuando eran pequeños, llegarían a poder aguantar el hambre cuando fueran grandes. Así que las mamás evitaban dar pecho a sus recién nacidos durante varios días, hasta perder el calostro, la rica y amarillenta leche que debería ser la primera, nutritiva comida del bebé. Las madres no daban de comer a menudo y muchas empezaron demasiado temprano a dar alimentos suplementarios, como las sopas o papillas.

Hoy en días las mamás jóvenes están cambiando su manera de criar a sus hijos, pero algunas de las ideas viejas persisten.

A principios de agosto, tuve la oportunidad de volver a trabajar con Yesmina, mientras ella escribía una hoja volante y un guion de video sobre la leche materna. El primer día del curso, Yesmina bosquejó sus sugerencias principales: empezar a dar pecho el día que el bebé nace, dar leche materna (solamente) durante los primeros seis meses, y seguir amamantando al bebé por lo menos durante sus primeros dos años de vida.

La semana pasada nuestro blog, Aprender de los estudiantes, contó como nuestro curso empieza con la redacción de una hoja volante que luego se lleva a la comunidad para leer.

Durante el curso de la redacción de guiones, Yesmina tuvo la sabiduría de entrevistar a hombres también, no solo a las madres. Pero los hombres tenían poco interés en la leche materna, la cual vieron como un asunto de las mujeres.

Mientras escribía el borrador de su guion de video, Yesmina visitó la comunidad de Phinkina, cerca de Anzaldo, Cochabamba, donde se reunió con tres madres para aprender sobre sus experiencias con la leche materna. Sus hijos ya eran grandes y Yesmina quería sondear algunas de sus ideas para ver cómo ayudar a las mamás jóvenes.

Yesmina explicó que el principal señal de la desnutrición es que los bebés son pequeños para su edad (y una madre no siembre se da cuenta de eso, sobre todo si la desnutrición es común). Es fácil evitar la desnutrición infantil con el buen uso de la leche materna. Yesmina se sorprendió que las mujeres no pensaron que era problema si sus hijos eran muy pequeños en sus primeros años. “Pueden comer cuando son jóvenes,” explicó una de las mujeres. (Aunque en realidad, los niños nunca se recuperan completamente del mal desarrollo en sus primeros años de vida).

Sin embargo, las madres estaban obsesionadas con el colegio. Querían que sus hijos fueran buenos alumnos y que terminaran el colegio.

Yesmina se dio cuenta que el hablar del colegio podría ser una manera de que los padres se interesaran en la leche para los bebés, al explicar que la leche materna ayuda a los niños a tener mentes y cuerpos sanos, para poder ser exitosos en el colegio.

Para el fin de la semana, el guion ya no era de tres tópicos sino de cinco:

  1. Comer bien cuando estás embarazada. Aquí también será crucial involucrar a los hombres, para que apoyen a sus esposas, hijas y nueras para que coman mejor durante el embarazo, y para ayudarles a reducir su carga de trabajo.
  2. Empezar a dar pecho inmediatamente que el bebé nazca.
  3. Al bebé solo darle leche materna hasta los 6 meses de edad.
  4. Empezar con la alimentación suplementaria a partir de los 6 meses.
  5. Continuar dando pecho hasta que el bebé cumpla por lo menos 2 años.

Ahora el borrador del guion explica que el calostro es el primer alimento para el cerebro del bebé y que los bebés bien alimentados con la leche materna llegarán a ser niños exitosos en el colegio.

Una tarea sencilla, como escribir algunas sugerencias para la leche materna, resulta ser más compleja (además de más enriquecedora) cuando la autora invita a miembros de su público a leer y comentar sobre el primer borrador. Los académicos están acostumbrados a compartir borradores de sus artículos con sus colegas. Cuando uno escribe para una audiencia popular, igualmente puede ser útil compartir los borradores con algunos miembros de la comunidad.

Lectura adicional

Cruz Agudo, Yesmina, Andrew D. Jones, Peter R. Berti, Sergio Larrea Macías 2010 “Lactancia Materna, Alimentación Complementaria y Malnutrición Infantil en los Andes de Bolivia.” Archivos Latinoamericanos de Nutrición 60(1):7-14. http://www.scielo.org.ve/pdf/alan/v60n1/art02.pdf

Jones, Andrew D., Yesmina Cruz Agudo, Lindsay Galway, Jeffery Bentley, & Per Pinstrup-Andersen 2012 “Heavy Agricultural Workloads and Low Crop Diversity are Strong Barriers to Improving Child Feeding Practices in the Bolivian Andes.” Social Science & Medicine 75 (9):1673-1684.http://www.jefferybentley.com/Heavy%20Agricultural%20Workloads.pdf

“Learning to eat,” un resumen de una página de Jones et al. http://www.agroinsight.com/downloads/in-the-field/summary-Learning-to-eat-Extension-Methods-4.pdf

Para mirar videos

Se puede ver un video sobre cómo hacer papillas para niños chiquitos usando ingredientes que se encuentran en una aldea de Africa Occidental aquí:
http://www.accessagriculture.org/enriching-porridge

Y un video sobre cómo ayudar a las mujeres a recuperarse después de dar a luz aquí:
http://www.accessagriculture.org/helping-women-recover-after-childbirth

 

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