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United women of Morochata May 6th, 2018 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

A success of a woman’s group depends in large part on the quality of leadership, as I saw this last week in Morochata, a highland municipality in the Bolivian Andes. My agronomist friend Rhimer Gonzales had organized women’s groups in two neighboring villages. One group was largely inactive, while the one in the village of Piusilla was going strong.

Rhimer phoned Juliana García, the president of the women’s group of Piusilla, to arrange a meeting. Rhimer had some group business to discuss, and he was going to help me ask some follow up questions about videos. The previous year, the women had received DVDs with seven videos on soil conservation and I wanted to learn what the women had done with the information. Doña Juliana was not at home, and the women in her group were busy, but she said that if we came back at 8:30 that evening she would have at least some of the women at her house.

By 8 o’clock in the evening it was dark and raining hard. At 3350 meters above sea level it gets cold when it rains, and it’s miserable to get wet. Rhimer and I were sure that no one would come to the meeting, but still we wanted to try.

We were surprised when we got to doña Juliana’s house to see about half of the women’s group there. Doña Juliana had taken the time (and spent money) to ring the women up, and had then built a warm fire to welcome them. They soon invited me to ask my questions. The videos included one that Agro-Insight made last year on lupins, edible Andean legumes that improve the soil.

The women said that they had seen two videos with Rhimer at one of their meetings. Afterwards, the women arranged to watch the videos again, by themselves, because they are looking for ways to improve their income, for example by growing lupins and broad beans. They also want to consolidate their position as a women’s group within the sindicato, the local organization that represents and leads the community, but which is made up mainly of men.

Besides the lupin video, they had watched one from Vietnam about making live barriers on steep hillsides to conserve the soil. They recalled, accurately, that the video showed how to measure rows to plant the grass, which had to be transplanted in small clumps or cuttings.

When we asked if they had tried any of the ideas from the video, doña Juliana said that she had learned how to select her seed. One of the key ideas from the lupin video is to remove the small and unhealthy grains, and only plant the best ones for a better harvest. Doña Juliana was impressed by the little hand screen she had seen in the video, to sort the grains by size, but she didn’t have a screen. Instead, she just sorted the seed by hand, a practice which is also shown in the video. It is important to give people different options.

She has planted the seed and now the crop is flowering. Doña Juliana is impressed that by selecting her lupin seed, the plants are bigger and healthier than in previous years.

Rhimer and I asked how many of the other women in the group had selected seed too. One of them decided it was time for some comic relief. She said “My husband just grabbed some of the lupine grains in the bag and scattered them, and they are doing just fine.”

All of the women laughed, including doña Juliana, but then she reminded them: “You have all seen how to select seed and you know how to do it. So you should all try it.”

Leadership matters. In time, these women will notice the difference in yield between selected and unselected seed. It usually takes a while for a whole community to adopt an innovation. A useful step is to have one of the leaders adopt and share her experience.

Many of the women are shy, but not doña Juliana. As we are leaving she gave me a firm handshake and said: “Next time come in the daytime, and we’ll all have boiled potatoes!” I have little doubt that when doña Juliana harvests her lupins she will share her experience with the group. Triggering innovation is like growing a crop: it requires someone to plant the seed. The videos do exactly that: give farmers ideas to try out new things. And by leaving DVDs in communities you give people the chance to learn at their convenience.

Watch videos

Growing lupin without disease is available in English, French, Spanish, Ayamara and Quechua.

Grass strips against soil erosion is available in 10 languages, including Spanish, Ayamara and Quechua

More training videos can be viewed and downloaded from www.accessagriculture.org

Related blog story

Crop with an attitude

Acknowledgements

Our work in Bolivia is funded by the McKnight Foundation’s CCRP (Collaborative Crop Research Program). Rhimer Gonzales works for the Proinpa Foundation, where he helps to implement the Biocultura Project, which is funded by SDC (Swiss Cooperation).

LAS MUJERES UNIDAS DE MOROCHATA

Por Jeff Bentley, 6 de mayo del 2018

El Ă©xito de un grupo de mujeres depende en gran medida de la calidad del liderazgo, como lo vi la semana pasada en Morochata, un municipio en los altos Andes bolivianos. Mi amigo, el ingeniero agrĂłnomo Rhimer Gonzales, habĂ­a organizado grupos de mujeres en dos comunidades vecinos. Un grupo estaba en gran parte inactivo, mientras que el de la comunidad de Piusilla estaba fuerte.

Rhimer llamó a Juliana García, la presidenta del grupo de mujeres de Piusilla, para concertar una reunión. Rhimer tenía algunos asuntos del grupo para discutir, y me iba a ayudar a hacer algunas preguntas de seguimiento sobre los videos. El año anterior, las mujeres habían recibido DVDs con siete videos sobre la conservación del suelo y yo quería saber cómo habían respondido ellas a la información. Doña Juliana no estaba en casa, y las mujeres de su grupo estaban ocupadas, pero dijo que si volvíamos a las 8:30 esa noche ella tendría al menos algunas de las mujeres en su casa.

A las 8 de la noche estaba oscuro y llovía fuerte. A los 3350 metros sobre el nivel del mar hace frío cuando llueve, y es miserable mojarse. Rhimer y yo estábamos seguros de que nadie vendría a la reunión, pero aun así queríamos intentarlo.

Nos sorprendimos cuando llegamos a la casa de doña Juliana para ver reunido la mitad del grupo de mujeres. Doña Juliana se había tomado el tiempo (y gastado dinero) para llamar a las mujeres, y luego había encendido un fuego caliente para darles la bienvenida. Pronto me invitaron a hacer mis preguntas. Los videos incluyen uno que Agro-Insight hizo el año pasado sobre el tarwi (lupino, chocho, o altramuz), una leguminosa andina comestible que mejora el suelo.

Las mujeres contaron que habían visto dos videos con Rhimer en una de sus reuniones. Luego, las mujeres se organizaron para ver los videos de nuevo, por su cuenta, porque ellas buscan opciones para mejorar sus ingresos, por ejemplo produciendo tarwi y habas. Además quieren consolidar su posición como grupo de mujeres dentro del sindicato, la organización popular que representa y lidera a la comunidad, que es conformado principalmente por hombres.

Además del video de lupinos, habían visto uno de Vietnam sobre el hacer barreras vivas en laderas para conservar el suelo. Recordaron, con precisión, que el video mostraba cómo medir las filas para plantar el pasto, que se tenía que trasplantar en matoncitos.

Cuando les preguntamos si habían probado algunas de las ideas del video, doña Juliana dijo que había aprendido a seleccionar su semilla. Una de las ideas clave del video de lupinos es eliminar los granos pequeños y enfermos, y solo sembrar los mejores para una mejor cosecha. Doña Juliana quedó impresionada por la pequeña zaranda de mano que había visto en el video, para separar los granos por tamaño, pero ella no tenía zaranda. En cambio, ella simplemente seleccionó la semilla a mano, una práctica que también se muestra en el video. Es importante dar varias opciones a la gente.

Ella ha plantado la semilla y ahora la cosecha está floreciendo. Doña Juliana está impresionada de que al seleccionar su semilla de lupino, las plantas son más grandes y más saludables que en años anteriores.

Rhimer y yo preguntamos cuántas de las otras mujeres en el grupo tambiĂ©n habĂ­an seleccionado semillas. Una de ellas decidiĂł que era hora para un poco de alivio cĂłmico. Ella dijo: “Mi marido solamente agarrĂł algunos granos de lupino del bulto y los lanzĂł, y están creciendo bien.”

Todas las mujeres se rieron, incluida doña Juliana, pero luego les recordĂł: “Todas han visto cĂłmo seleccionar semillas y saben cĂłmo hacerlo”. Entonces todos deberĂ­an intentarlo.”

El liderazgo sí importa. Con el tiempo, estas mujeres se fijarán en la diferencia en el rendimiento entre las semillas seleccionadas y las otras. Por lo general, toma tiempo para que toda una comunidad adopte una innovación. Un paso útil es lograr que una de las líderes adopte y comparta su experiencia.

Muchas de las mujeres son tĂ­midas, pero no doña Juliana. Cuando partimos, me dio un firme apretĂłn de manos y dijo: “¡La prĂłxima vez venga de dĂ­a, y todos comeremos papas cocidas!” me queda poca duda de que cuando doña Juliana coseche sus lupinos, compartirá su experiencia con el grupo. Desencadenar la innovaciĂłn es como cultivar un cultivo: requiere que alguien siembre la semilla. Los videos hacen exactamente eso: dan ideas a las agricultoras para que pruben cosas nuevas. Y al dejar los DVD en las comunidades, la gente tiene la oportunidad de aprender a su conveniencia.

Ver los videos

Producir tarwi sin enfermedad está disponible en español, inglés, francés, ayamara y quechua.

Barreras vivas contra la erosión del suelo está disponible en 10 idiomas, incluso español, ayamara y quechua.

Se puede ver y bajar más videos informativos de www.accessagriculture.org

Una historia previa

Cultivo con carácter fuerte

Agradecimientos

Nuestro trabajo en Bolivia es auspiciado por el CCRP (Programa Colaborativo para la InvestigaciĂłn de los Cultivos) de la FundaciĂłn McKnight. Rhimer Gonzales trabaja para la FundaciĂłn Proinpa, donde Ă©l ayuda a implementar el Proyecto Biocultura, el cual es financiado por COSUDE (CooperaciĂłn Suiza).

Nourishing a fertile imagination March 5th, 2017 by

New ideas spark the imagination of smallholders, whether they have experience with the topic or not. We saw this last week in Nanegaon, a village just outside of the booming city of Pune, India, where farmers reviewed four fact sheets written by our 12 adult students.

Hunamat Pawale reads fact sheetA fact sheet is only one page, so it has to narrow in on a specific topic. The first fact sheet suggested cleaning maggots from wounds on cattle with turpentine, a common disinfectant distilled from pine resin. One man, Hanumant Pawale, read the fact sheet quickly, pronouncing the text clearly in a booming voice. When he finished, several farmers began to speak, adding ideas they wanted to include in the fact sheet. The first woman said that here they treat the cows’ wounds with kerosene, which is cheaper than turpentine, and is available at shops in the village. Her neighbors mentioned other products to treat cattle.

tweezersWe had wondered how farmers removed maggots. One of the farmers went to get a pair of tweezers to show us the tool that he used for plucking maggots from a wounded cow. Tweezers may be too sharp for such a delicate operation, but every household has a pair of tweezers, and they work if you are careful not to poke the cow’s flesh.

The farmers shared another important insight with us: it is best to avoid letting maggots grow in wounds in the first place. The villagers keep their cattle healthy by looking for wounds. Cows lick their wounds, the villagers explain, and if people see a cow licking her wound, they know that she needs some care.

The authors of the fact sheets got excited about improving their fact sheet by taking the farmers’ ideas on board.

It was a great meeting, but there was one little problem. After the first woman spoke, only men took the floor. Later I mentioned this to Pooja, one of our participants.

“The women won’t speak if the men are there,” she says matter-of-factly.

After meeting with the dairy farmers I went with two young men, Ajinkya and Pradeepta, who were writing a fact sheet on mulch: a simple layer of straw or leaves put on the soil surface to keep in moisture. We met a farmer, Mukta Naranyan Sathe, who was just setting down a pile of small, delicate legumes onto a tarp, for threshing.

Mukta Narayan Sathe reads fact sheetMukta-ji had never heard of mulch, but she was interested. After reading the fact sheet, she understood that mulch helps to conserve water. But, she told us that she did not really need to conserve water, because Nanegaon has abundant irrigation, provided by seven or eight bore-hole wells.

Even so, the fact sheet still inspired her to think creatively. She imagined that a large plant could be mulched with whole straw, but for a fragile herb, like fenugreek, the straw would have to be cut into small pieces.

We were soon joined by Mukta’s great nephew, Ganesh Dhide and a friend, Shubhan Pawale. They read the fact sheet and then all of them began to imagine ways of making mulch. They said that instead of burning the leaves off of sugarcane (a common practice which makes the cane easier to harvest), they could use them as a mulch.

They added that they now have a clear idea of mulching and that if one person tries it, and it works, the others in the village will surely adopt the new ideas as well.

The villagers could tell us practical ways to cure wounded cows but didn’t know about mulching until the fact sheet caught their imagination. Even so, they thought of two new ways to make mulch not mentioned in the fact sheet: cutting straw for fenugreek, and using sugarcane leaves. Farmers are inherently creative, and relish new ideas. We do not know if the farmers will adopt any of the ideas in the fact sheets, but before trying a technology one must first imagine doing something new. Our readers had already taken that step.

Other blog stories on writing fact sheets

Chemical attitude adjustment

The rules and the players

Learning from students

On the road to yoghurt

A hard write

Guardians of the mango

A spoonful of molasses

Turtle hunters

Acknowledgements

The first photo is by Mohan Dhuldhar. The second one is by Ajinkya Upasani.

Men’s language, women’s language January 8th, 2017 by

In most countries, men and women have different styles of speaking. But is it possible for a community to have two completely different languages, one for men and one for women, not just for one generation, but sustained for a long time?

caribbeanIf such diglossia (a dual language system) is possible, imagine the decisions one would have to make while engaging with such a community. Makers of educational videos might have to make two soundtracks for a single community. An agricultural extensionist would have to choose which language to use for a talk.

caribbean-lesser-antillesAs strange as it may seem, at least one society did come close to having two, gender-based languages, which were spoken over several generations.  In the 17th century, the people of the Caribbean Island of Dominica told a story that they said took place some generations before the coming of the Europeans, when the islands of the Lesser Antilles had been inhabited by people who spoke an Arawak language. Then the islands were attacked by canoe-loads of men who spoke a Carib language. The invaders killed the local men, and then settled down with the women.

The two languages were extremely different, but the children born after the invasion grew up speaking both of them. All children learned the Arawak language of their mothers, but when the boys became teenagers they started spending more time with the men, and began to speak Carib among themselves. The Islanders developed a version of Carib that became a language for men only.

In 1665, Father Raymond Breton, a French missionary, published a two-volume dictionary of the language then spoken on the islands of Dominica and St. Vincent. The dictionary specified whether each word was used by men, or by women.

Various scholars have questioned the historical accuracy of the Carib invasion story. It is possible that the men’s language originated through trade or migration.  We will never know if Carib men of the 13th century once rampaged across the island beaches, murdering Arawak men and capturing women. There is no historical or archaeological evidence for (or against) this story. Yet the linguistic data are well documented. There is no doubt that in the 1650s, over much of the Lesser Antilles, men and women spoke in two remarkably different codes. The two genders used the same sounds, and most of the same grammar, but men’s words were from Carib, and women’s words were from Arawak. (The men could speak the women’s language, and would speak it when socializing with women. The men’s language was only used between men).

If you could time travel to the Island of Dominica in the 17th century, and were able to speak the full range of men’s and women’s languages, a talk with the whole community would sooner or later switch to the women’s language, because it was everyone’s first tongue.

In agricultural extension today, sometimes it helps to create a space where women can easily speak up, so that their concerns can be addressed. It is easy to start to think that men and women are very different, but it is also worth remembering that in some ways we are the same, and that language can unite us.

Further reading

Allaire, Louis 1980 “On the Historicity of Carib Migrations in the Lesser Antilles.” American Antiquity 45(2):238-245.

Boucher, Philip P. 2009 Cannibal Encounters: Europeans and Island Caribs, 1492–1763. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Davis, Dave D. and R. Christopher Goodwin 1990 “Island Carib Origins: Evidence and Nonevidence.” American Antiquity 55(1):37-48.

Taylor, Douglas 1954 “Diachronic Note on the Carib Contribution to Island Carib.” International Journal of American Linguistics 20(1):28-33.

Taylor, Douglas R. and Berend J. Hoff 1980 “The Linguistic Repertory of the Island-Carib in the Seventeenth Century: The Men’s Language: A Carib Pidgin?”  International Journal of American Linguistics 46(4):301-312.

Further viewing

Watch a video on women in agricultural extension, here.

Our younger readers December 18th, 2016 by

Some countries with deeply contrasting linguistic histories are now becoming literate in similar ways. In Nepal and Malawi reading is becoming more common, as governments set up more schools and encourage girls and boys to attend.

Unlike most of Africa and Asia, Nepal was never formally colonized. The British were content to recognize the kingdom and install a British ministry in 1840 to advise on key issues, especially foreign policy. And the British accepted Nepali soldiers, the famous Gurkhas, into the Indian army.

Malawi was colonized, but fairly late. The Scottish missionary-explorer, David Livingstone ambled across what is now Malawi in 1861. The first traders, the African Lakes Company, set up shop in 1878, in Blantyre, and military conquest was complete by 1890.

A country’s literary tradition can be old or recent. Nepali has been written from the very start, since the language first evolved from Sanskrit, which itself had a sophisticated writing system by the second millennium BCE. The languages of Malawi (then called “Nyasaland”) were not written until the 1870s when Scottish missionaries devised scripts (“alphabets”) to translate the Bible. By the 1890s children were learning to read and write in mission schools. In Malawi, a literary heritage of thousands of years had been compressed into a single generation.

juno-gaha-reads-mites-pamphletAn old literary tradition is not necessarily a democratic one. In Nepal, as late as 1900, only 5% of the population could read. Government schools gradually improved. By 1951 the literacy rate was 39%, rising to 58% in 1991. Some of this effort was motivated by a policy to promote the Nepali language at the expense of the others spoken in the country, many of which are entirely unrelated to Nepali, linguistically.

In Malawi there were never enough mission schools to meet the demand from parents who wanted their children to study. Government schools expanded, especially after independence in 1963. The languages of Malawi are all Bantu tongues, and are all fairly closely related to one another. People learn to read in their own language (e.g. Tumbuka or Yao), besides Chichewa, which is the de facto national language.

The world literacy rate (the percentage of people over 15-years-old who can read), is 86% (83% for women). Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have some of the lowest literacy rates in the world: 65% for Nepal and almost the same for Malawi at 66%. Fewer women are literate, 55% in Nepal and just slightly more, 59%, in Malawi.
I was in Nepal and Malawi this year, and while the school systems are not over-funded, in both countries I was pleasantly surprised to see people reading, even in the countryside. Even people who didn’t go to school usually have someone in the household who can read a document to them. In Nepal, shops advertise their wares in writing on the storefront, and in Malawi, roadside grain buyers scrawl their maize and bean prices onto signs, to attract farmer-sellers.

buying-maize-and-beans-chichewa-languageIn both countries, when extensionists give farmers a piece of paper, their first reaction is to read it. There is room for improvement, e.g. schools need to be better resourced and more girls and women need to be included, but even in some of the poorest parts of the world many more people can read now than in their parents’ day. This is an opportunity for communicating agriculture. It means that agencies can write fact sheets for farmers, as long as the writers can avoid jargon. While videos are an important way of reaching women, minorities and other disadvantaged groups, even a DVD of farmer learning videos is enhanced with a bit of writing, such as a cover with a title, and a menu so farmers can choose the videos they want to watch.

World literacy rates have improved so fast that it is much more common for young people to read than for elders (Roser and Ortiz-Ospina 2016). Let’s make sure that this generation of literate farmers has something appropriate to read about agricultural technology.

Further reading

McCracken, John 2012 A History of Malawi: 1859-1966. Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: James Currey. 485 pp.

Roser, Max and Esteban Ortiz-Ospina 2016 “Literacy”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: https://ourworldindata.org/literacy/

Whelpton, John 2005 A History of Nepal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 296 pp.

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 PotosĂ­, 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, contĂł como nuestro curso empieza con la redacciĂłn 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. QuerĂ­an 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 tĂłpicos 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 alimentaciĂłn 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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