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Grandmothers in Benin Work With Plan International to Curb Malnutrition

Local grandmother Philomena leads a cooking lesson in Benin as part of Planís Community Nutrition Project.
Local grandmother Philomena leads a cooking lesson in Benin as part of Planís Community Nutrition Project.
May 2, 2014
Plan has teamed up with the Benin Government and local grandmothers to promote healthy eating.

When it comes to fighting malnutrition in Benin, grandmothers have taken to the front lines.

With the help of Plan International and the World Bank, a new nutrition-focused campaign has yielded positive results.

“Since the birth of my first son, I have relied on the advice given by my mother-in-law with regards to food and nutrition for my children,” said Rosine – a 25-year-old mother of four. “As a result, my children are well fed and they rarely get ill.”

Rosine regularly attends cooking sessions held in her village by a group of local grandmothers who teach young mothers how they can prepare nutritious meals for their children using locally available foods and produce.

The sessions are part of a nationwide Community Nutrition Project to tackle malnutrition. One out of every three children under the age of 5 in Benin suffers from chronic malnutrition. To meet this challenge, the government initiated the project in 2012, under the coordination of Plan and with funding from the World Bank.

“Grandmothers are real assets in the fight against malnutrition,” said Plan Program Unit Manager Michel Kanhonou. “They are respected role models in the communities because of their experience. And their advice is taken into account. We mobilize grandmothers who are trained and given all necessary skills to take care of children’s nutritional needs. They then educate community members on the importance of a healthy diet.”

Lea, Rosine’s mother-in-law, is an enthusiastic member of the nutrition project and is always eager to advise young mothers on ways to keep their children healthy.

“We talk to young mothers and share traditional knowledge on food passed down from generations,” she said. “We recommend local produce and plants with nutritious value like moringa [and] boabab. And, we hold cooking classes to demonstrate how to cook with them.”

M. Mogbo, Benin’s secretary of the National Council of Nutrition, is pleased with the results so far.

“The project has led to drastic reduction in the incidence of child malnutrition,” he said. “The second outcome is the local solidarity between households within the community that take care of their own children’s nutrition, under the monitoring of grandmothers and using local products....This is proof of the sustainability of the project.”

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