SPRING is reaching over 5,500 local farmers in the Mopti region of Mali with nutrition-sensitive agriculture education through Farmer Nutrition School (FNS) trainings. The trainings use the experiential, plot-based training methodology applied in farmer field schools (FFS) to encourage gardening of nutrient-rich horticulture. The trainings also include social behavior change communication (SBCC) to promote the uptake of nutrition-specific behaviors taken from the essential nutrition and hygiene actions (ENA/EHA) curriculum and nutrition-sensitive agricultural practices.
Focusing primarily on women of reproductive age or women with children under two, SPRING formed 20 FNS commune-level cohorts, one per project commune. Each FNS cohort consists of 25 lead farmers, five from each of five villages within each commune, who convene at communal plots throughout the year to observe demonstrations by SPRING’s field agents and practice the improved techniques. At the end of each FNS training module, the lead farmers return to their villages (a total of 100 in the 20 communes) and replicate the FNS trainings with about 10 villagers in their own communities. Through this cascade approach, SPRING is able to reach more participants than through direct trainings alone.
The FNS training consists of several sessions that correlate with the Mopti seasonal agriculture calendar. The sessions demonstrate improved agricultural techniques such as integrated pest management, soil fertility, water management and composting, while also promoting the planting and consumption of locally available, nutrient dense plant varieties. The SPRING field agents also incorporate discussions related to the ENA/EHA, such as handwashing with soap and educational cooking demonstrations, to underscore the linkages between agriculture and nutrition.
SPRING/Mali is the second SPRING country to incorporate FNS activities into its portfolio. SPRING/Bangladesh also conducts FNS trainings using a training curriculum specific to the Bangladesh context.