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Beating a nasty weed September 25th, 2016 by

All over Africa, small shops are offering affordable movies and music videos on DVDs and memory cards. In Malawi the shopkeepers who sell videos are called DJs.

In 2014, in Malawi, the international NGO Access Agriculture asked me and Malawian media expert, Ronald Kondwani Udedi, to meet some of these DJs and to explore their interest in distributing farmer training videos.

Later, Ronald travelled around southern Malawi, giving DVDs of farmer learning videos to some 70 DJs. Ronald gave away the DVDs for free, but told the DJs they could sell the videos to farmers; we hoped that the profit motive would encourage the DJs to copy the DVDs, and to install the videos onto farmers’ phones.

Ronald compiled 3 DVDs: one on chilli, one on rice and one on Striga, a parasitic weed. The videos were in English and in local languages: Chichewa, Senna, Yao and Tumbuka.

We wondered what happened when the videos left the DJ’s shop. Did the farmer-customers watch the videos and learn from them? Bear in mind that the farmers got these DVDs cold, with no one to answer questions. The videos had to be completely self-explanatory.

To answer this question, last week Ronald and I visited two farmers who had picked up the Striga DVD from DJs. Ronald rang up one farmer, Patrick Sungani, and introduced himself. Even though the call was a total surprise, Sungani readily agreed to meet us.

Sungani is a young smallholder in Mwanza district, in a village 14 km off the highway. Sungani bought his video at a shop near Mwanza town, on the Mozambique border, some 20 km from home.

afoso-jowanjge-patrick-sungani-and-mideo-chisimani-who-pull-up-strigaSungani watched the Striga videos with his friends. They learned that Striga reproduces by tiny seeds. Sungani, like many other farmers, had seen the Striga seeds without realizing what they were actually seeds. Sungani and four of his friends organized themselves to uproot Striga plants before it could set seed, just as the videos suggested.

As we went to look at Sungani’s garden, he showed us old, dry Striga plants in neighbors’ fields. He shook some of the seed capsules, to show us the dust-like seeds. His own garden was free of Striga. He and his friends had plucked all the Striga from five neighboring fields.

striga-seedsSungani watched the videos many times, which farmers often do when they have their own copy. African smallholders recognize Striga as a weed, but the plant spends much of its life underground and seems to appear late in the year, so many farmers do not realize how much damage Striga causes. Sungani learned that Striga “Is a unique plant. Its seed is like a dust. You can’t see the plant when it is inside the ground. I learned that it is a dangerous weed and how to control it.”

patrick-sungani-and-strigaThe video encouraged Sungani to make his own observations. For example, he taught himself that older Striga plants have a tough root, which can be dug up with hand tools.

We visited a second farmer, Lester Gandari, in Thambani, a town that is barely more than a farm village. Gandari was attracted to the idea of intercropping maize with cowpeas, another innovation shown in the video.  Legumes, like cowpeas, are trap crops that kill Striga before it can attach its parasitic roots to the maize roots. Gandari decided to alternate one hill (a cluster of two or three plants) of maize and one of cowpea, even though the video teaches several other patterns of intercropping, in alternate rows. Gandari had understood the basic idea from the video (intercropping legumes and grains controls Striga) so well that he could experiment with intercropping in ways not shown in the video.

Gandari was pleased with his efforts to control Striga. “It worked well. I have bumper crops of maize and of cowpea.”

Like Sungani, Gandari had watched the videos several times. Sungani then showed them to about 30 other farmers; about half of them were women. Gandari will continue to watch the videos “because there is (still) more to learn.” Gandari is excited about videos now, and would like to see some on maize, eggplant, sugar cane, bananas, and potatoes.

These finely crafted videos feature real farmers, speaking on camera, explaining practical innovations. The videos capture the audiences’ imagination, and inspire them to experiment with the technologies.  No one convinces a smallholder like another farmer, even when (or especially when) they are on video.

Further reading

Other stories about the DJs in Malawi Village movies in Malawi, Watching videos without smartphones, and Can I make some extra money?,

Stories about striga videos in Africa Fighting striga and improving soil fertility with videos in Mali, Killing the vampire flower, Travels around the sun,  I thought you said “N’Togonasso”, and The truth of local language.

Further viewing

You can watch the striga videos here: http://www.accessagriculture.org/search/striga/all/

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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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Waiting for rats September 11th, 2016 by

People usually have a good reason for ignoring free advice.

So when Tumpale Pindani, my Malawian colleague, asked me “How long will it take before the people in Malawi accept conservation agriculture,” I could tell that it had already been a long slog, even though I couldn’t answer her question. After all, conservation agriculture has worthy aims, such as improving soil fertility and halting erosion. Conservation agriculture includes many practices, such as minimum tillage, cover crops, and straw mulch. Most of these are old practices, widely used somewhere in the world, although none are used on farms worldwide. Some farmers have competing goals, besides soil conservation.

alefa-kakawoTumpale and I were visiting a field in Malingunde, in Central Malawi where Alefa had harvested groundnuts and was about to plant maize. So Alefa was rotating crops, which is one component of conservation agriculture. Alefa asked us how she could improve soil fertility, and Tumpale recommended composted manure, another component. Alefa listened with interest.

On the way back to the car Tumpale stopped and asked me to look at a boy sitting on the ground in a dry field. Most of the ground was bare, except for some spots where the few remaining maize stalks had been piled up, ready to burn. “Do you know what he is doing?” Tumpale asked.

kid-in-bare-fieldIt didn’t look like he was doing anything, just sitting there, toying with a short-handled hoe.

“He’s waiting for rats,” Tumpale explained.

The dry season is driest right at the end. And that is when older children look for rat holes. The kids pile up maize stalks where the rats like to hide, and burn the stalks, creating a clear, wide open field of bare earth and ash. There is nowhere for a rodent to hide.

Then the boys dig up the rat holes, and when the rats run out, the boys club them with the hoe, and take their prey home to eat.

It’s not as terrible as it sounds. I’ve had rat three times this year so far, twice in Uganda and once in Nigeria. Rat is a treat, especially if grilled on an open fire.

One conservation agriculture practice is to leave crop stubble in the field, where it slowly decomposes, protecting and enriching the soil. It’s a sensible recommendation. But people aren’t following this suggestion, at least not in Malingunde. During the scorching dry season there is not much else for cattle to eat, so after harvesting the maize, people take the corn stalks home, and feed the leaves to their animals. Women burn the bare stalks as fuel, for cooking. In this part of Malawi crop residues are more valuable at home than in the field.

Stalks that are not gleaned during the dry season may eventually be burned to clear the ground for gourmet rat hunting. Conservation agriculture is marketed as a package, or a brand, but that doesn’t mean that all recommended practices will be adopted. Some will have to take second place to existing needs, like the search for tasty rats.

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Inventing a better maize chopper September 4th, 2016 by

Vea la versión en español a continuación

It can take years to perfect even a simple maize chopper. Agricultural research is harder than it looks, as we see in this case where researchers also found inspiration in their students, in farmers and later in their customers.

The Center for Research, Training and Extension in Agricultural Mechanization, better known as Cifema, its Spanish acronym, is part of the public university (UMSS) in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Cifema started as a Swiss project in 1978 and has since split into an academic department and a company that manufactures and sells agricultural implements.

For years, Cifema specialized in animal-drawn tools, and made red metal ox-drawn plows that are now a common sight in the valleys of Bolivia. Much of Cifema’s work has been a long-term collaboration between agronomist Leonardo Zambrana and mechanical engineer Mario Huanca.

primer modelo corta forrajeIn 2004, Cifema set out to make one of their first motorized implements. With funding from the Swedish government, Zambrana, Huanca and their student Henry Cabrera made a prototype forage chopper for family dairy farms. The machine would cut plants into small, digestible pieces. With rising labor costs, the farmers needed a way to save time while making animal feed.

By 2006, the prototype was finished and Henry Cabrera had completed his studies. He took the machine home, to his parents’ farm in the remote, highland municipality of Pasorapa, Campero, Cochabamba. Two years later Henry returned to UMSS with new ideas on how to improve the maize chopper. The first version had been ingenious—the farmer would feed the maize stalks through two rollers into a set of four blades that would cut up the plant. But it needed to be more robust; it had small springs were easily broken and were a nuisance to replace.

So Zambrana and Huanca made a second, bigger version of the chopper, with no springs and with six blades instead of four. They took it to an agricultural fair in Cochabamba to show it off. A dairy farmer stopped to admire the machine and asked if he could try it out. So Cifema took the chopper out to the dairy farm, and demonstrated it.

The dairy farmer kept the machine overnight to try it for himself. Mario Huanca recalls going back the next morning to collect the chopper. He was astounded at the huge mound of maize that the farmer had chopped, but off to one side was a smaller pile of just the ears.

“Why didn’t you chop up the ears?” Mr. Huanca asked.

“I wanted to, but they got stuck in the machine, so I had to break them off.”

This was a problem. Henry Cabrera was from a farm so small that people ate all the maize grain, and only cut up the dry stalks. But the dairy farmer who borrowed the machine overnight grew special forage maize and the whole plant had to be chopped up, ears and all.

máquina enteraZambrana and Huanca made adjustments and by 2009 they had created a chopper with eight blades instead of six. It had fewer moving parts. Instead of rollers, the maize simply slid in under a plate, right into the whirling blades. Then they added a Japanese-made, gasoline-powered motor. The chopper cost 12,000 Bolivianos (almost $1,700), but it was so useful that eventually 50 families bought one, as admiring neighbors followed the first purchasers.

Cifema made further improvements to the chopper design as they saw which repairs were most often needed.  Cifema also realized that they needed to make the machine cheaper. Many of the dairy farmers already had a two-wheeled tractor. If that could be used as the power source the chopper could be made without an engine, saving $400 from the price tag. That sounds simple, but it requires a lot of original research on the pulleys.

Cifema is now figuring out how to run a chopper at 1000 RPMs, powered by a two-wheeled tractor engine that runs at half that speed.  Slow innovation is like slow food. Sometimes the ideas have to simmer for a while, but they are worth the wait.


4 de septiembre del 2016

Por Jeff Bentley

Puede tomar años perfeccionar hasta una sencilla picadora de maíz. La investigación agrícola es más difícil de lo que parece, como vemos en este caso donde los investigadores encontraron inspiración en sus estudiantes, los agricultores y más tarde en sus compradores.

El Centro de Investigación, Formación y Extensión en Mecanización Agrícola, mejor conocido como  Cifema, es parte de la universidad pública (UMSS) en Cochabamba, Bolivia. Cifema empezó como un proyecto suizo en 1978 y luego se dividió en un departamento académico y una compañía que manufactura y vende implementos agrícolas.

Durante años, Cifema se especializó en implementos de tracción animal, e hizo rojos arados metálicos jalados por bueyes que ahora se ven por todos los valles de Bolivia. Mucho del trabajo de Cifema ha sido fruto de una larga colaboración entre el ingeniero agrónomo, Leonardo Zambrana y el ingeniero mecánico, Mario Huanca.

primer modelo corta forrajeEn el 2004, Cifema empezó a fabricar uno de sus primeros implementos motorizados. Con fondos del gobierno sueco, Zambrana, Huanca y su estudiante Henry Cabrera hicieron un prototipo de una picadora de forraje para pequeñas fincas lecheras. La máquina cortaría las plantas en trozos comestibles. Con alzas en los costos de la mano de obra, los agricultores necesitaban una manera de ahorrar tiempo mientras preparaban los alimentos para sus animales.

Para el 2006, el prototipo estaba listo y Henry Cabrera había terminado con su ingeniería. Él llevó la máquina a la pequeña finca de sus padres en el lejano municipio andino de Pasorapa, Campero, Cochabamba. Dos años más tarde, Henry volvió a la UMSS con nuevas ideas sobre cómo mejorar la picadora de maíz. La primera versión había sido ingeniosa—el agricultor metía el maíz entre dos rodillos hacia un juego de cuatro cuchillas que cortaban la planta. Pero tenía que ser más robusta; tenía resortes pequeños que se quebraban fácilmente y eran trabajosos de reemplazar.

Así que Zambrana y Huanca hicieron la segunda, más grande versión de la picadora, sin resortes y con seis cuchillas en vez de cuatro. La llevaron a una feria agrícola en Cochabamba para mostrarla. Un productor lechero se detuvo en admiración y pidió probar la máquina. Así que Cifema llevó la picadora a su finca, e hizo una demostración.

El lechero se quedó con la máquina toda la noche para hacer la prueba. Mario Huanca se acuerda de su visita la mañana siguiente para recoger la picadora. Él se quedó impresionado con el enorme montón de maíz que el agricultor había picado, pero a un lado había otro bulto más pequeño de solo las mazorcas.

“¿Por qué no picó las mazorcas?” preguntó el Ing. Huanca.

“Quería hacerlo, pero se trancaban en la máquina, así que tuve que sacarlas.”

Eso sí era un problema. Henry Cabrera era de una finca más pequeña donde la gente comía el grano, y solo se picaban los tallos secos. Pero el lechero que se prestó la máquina toda la noche producía maíz de forraje, y tenía que picar la planta entera, incluyendo la mazorca.

máquina enteraZambrana y Huanca hicieron ajustes y para el 2009 habían creado una picadora con ocho cuchillas en vez de seis. Tenía menos partes movibles y en vez de rodillos, el maíz se metía bajo una placa, directamente a las voraces cuchillas. Luego agregaron un motor japonés de gasolina. La picadora costaba 12,000 Bolivianos (casi $1,700), pero era tan útil que 50 familias se compraron una, a medida que sus vecinos se admiraban de la máquina y seguían a los primeros compradores.

Cifema mejoró el diseño más mientras veía las máquinas que sus compradores traían para reparar.  Los ingenieros se dieron cuenta que tenían que hacer una máquina más accesible. Muchos de los productores de leche ya tenían un motocultor, un tractorcito de dos ruedas. Si se podría usar el motocultor como la fuente de poder, se podría fabricar la picadora sin motor, ahorrando $400. Suena sencillo, pero requiere de investigación original con las poleas.

Actualmente, Cifema está averiguando cómo hacer funcionar una picadora a 1000 RPM, usando el motor de motocultor que se gira a la mitad de esa velocidad.  La innovación lenta es como la comida a fuego lento;  a veces las ideas tardan en servirse, pero valen la pena.

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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 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:




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:

Y un video sobre cómo ayudar a las mujeres a recuperarse después de dar a luz aquí:


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