Enhancing Food Security for Young Mothers in Zambia

Content Manager • 2 February 2018
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A group of young mothers and their children at Soopu community

The YWCA Mongu Western Region has recently partnered with the SDG Philanthropy Platform to implement an innovation challenge entitled "Storing Water for Food". The overall goal of this initiative is "to enhance food security among young mothers at household level" for 64 young mothers from Soopu, Mawawa and Kaande communities in Mongu and Limulunga districts in the Western Province of Zambia. These women were mobilised into 5 groups and have since engaged in vegetable gardening to enhance their food security and livelihoods. They will soon be engaged in community savings initiatives through Savings Internal Lending Communities (SILC) and supported with farming inputs and implements.

These female headed household young mothers live in abject poverty due to a number of social and economic factors such as poor nutrition, food insecurity , sexual violence and Gender based violence, poor growth, HIV and AIDS, low income, high illiteracy and lower education, unemployment, lack of livelihood skills and life skills. These factors worsen the effects of poverty among young mothers, intersectionality multiplying their vulnerability. The current poverty levels in the Western Province are rated at 80.4% and of this; more than 70% are women (2010 LCMS data).

During an assessment exercise conducted by YWCA prior to commencement of the innovation challenge, it was found that a majority of selected young mothers come from vulnerable households and have very low income per month which is between K50.00 to K150.00 in Zambian Kwacha and 5 to 15 in USD after harvesting. Additionally it was found that 80% of young mothers selected dropped out of school due to pregnancy and have at least 2 or more children. Most of the young mothers from those assessed are small scale vegetable farmers but fail to grow vegetables throughout the year due to inadequate knowledge in farming and agriculture, preservation of moisture and irrigation systems, at times lack gardening inputs. The majority of the women also lack entrepreneurship and marketing skills, damaging their ability to maintain sustained economic enterprises.

Furthermore, the desperation of poverty and weak livelihoods leads many women into engaging in exploitative sexual relationships in exchange for income for survival of themselves and their children. The majority of young mothers in the areas selected have no capacity to take care of their children due to low income levels at household level and 80% of young mothers from those assessed lack information on HIV, AIDS, Gender Based Violence (GBV), and human rights. As a result they do not respond to violence perpetuated against them in their vulnerable situations.

Against this background YWCA Mongu-Western region mobilized 68 women (22 from Soopu, 24 from Mawawa and 22 from Kaande) through small individual interviews with the view to validate their status as vulnerable persons, followed by an assessment exercise to assess their economic status at household level. After the assessment 64 young mothers were selected and mobilised into 5 groups of 14 to 15 members each. Five groups comprised of young mothers from Soopu, Mawawa and Kaande have since been established namely Lilato, Kutwano, Tumelo, Swalisano and Sepo.  Some members of the groups were later selected and engaged in training workshops on modern gardening skills, preservation of water for food and simple irrigation as well as entrepreneurship and marketing skills. Both workshops lasted two days each and were facilitated by Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Ministry of Commence, Trade and Industry and African Development Fund. Twenty-four young mothers, two traditional leaders and five YWCA staff successfully completed the trainings.  

The innovation is expected to benefit 64 young mothers and their children at household level. The groups have since been supported with vegetable farming land through traditional leaders and are preparing nursery seed beds after receiving part of the inputs such as vegetable seed (Tomatoes, Cabbage, Onion, Okra, greed paper, green beans, and eggplant) with close supervision and technical support from an agricultural officer who is based in the area. The groups are also expected to receive additional farming implements and inputs such as tanks, tank stands, ploughs, treadle pumps, watering canes, fertilizer, chemicals and many more to boost their vegetable agriculture. Thereafter the groups will receive skills and knowledge on village banking and community-based saving groups such as Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC). A SILC is a selected group of people, who pool their money in to fund, from which members can borrow. YWCA Mongu will provide five SILC groups with seed funding of ZMK 1,500.00 each as total initial capital. The SILC initiative is meant to increase income among young mothers at household level.

The ultimate outcome of the initiative will enable young mothers to meet their economic needs, have skills and knowledge for better capital generation and management which translate in to greater investment in their children therefore leading to improved food security at household level, improved nutrition, and increased access to income as result of SILC activities, reduced cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) among young mothers. Young mothers will also be able to own and have control of their own property such as land, shelter and other resources.

This project aims to support young mothers in making informed decisions that will benefit their children and communities and to be able to actively engage in community developmental activities in their respective areas, providing an improved welfare of young mothers and their children in the region.