WFP project freshens up diets in northern Ethiopia

Gudai Sette, a mother of two, feeds her 1-year-old child scrambled eggs in her home in Dana village, in the Amhara region of North Western Ethiopia. She is one of 43,000 community members in the region who welcome the introduction of World Food Programme’s (WFP’s) new Fresh Food Vouchers programme.

“The financial support is really quite a novelty — WFP charges my phone with money which I can transfer to the shop keeper’s account,” says Gudai, who receives 395 Birr (US$15) every month on her phone.

“We are happy to be able to buy fruit and vegetables to improve our diets.”

The electronic system promotes healthier eating by enabling people to buy fresh foods i.e. fruits, vegetables, eggs, milk and meat from local traders using their mobile phones rather than banknotes, all at subsidized prices. It is accompanied by training sessions to raise awareness on the benefits of a varied diet.

“Out of the amount I received, I have used 250 Birr (US$10) so far to buy food,” Gudai explains. “My child loves mangoes and I have also taken some vegetables as I want him to physically and mentally grow. Thanks to those who created this system.”

WFP’s Fresh Food Vouchers programme targets 11,000 households which comprise pregnant and nursing women and children under 2 who do not have access to enough food, for a total of 43,000 people.

The programme not only helps these mothers but boosts the local economy by increasing trading opportunities for local shopkeepers. It also complements the Ethiopian Government’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), which helps people facing chronic food insecurity by providing food and cash.

The initiative has already become the talk of the town although some challenges still need to be overcome, including the slow connection of the telecommunications network and a low number of accredited traders.

Approval from the mums
A one-time domestic worker in Saudi Arabia but now back in her home village of Dire Roka, 18-year-old Zahra Hassan is a mother of one and part of the pilot project.
“My kid is enjoying his meals, I hope to see tremendous changes in his health,” says Zahra. Her husband, Jemal Ahmed, is also happy to see his wife involved in this initiative.

“This is an awesome programme allowing us to vary our diets. I think all the family is now far more enlightened than before,” he says. “Now I’m conscious of what my diets should be during my pregnancy.’”

Tekia Humu, a 20-year-old pregnant mother living in Worsameti village of Habru district, buys potatoes and vegetables in Hara market.

Now 9-months’ pregnant, she is taught by WFP’s field monitors about the importance of a varied diet in the first 1,000 days since conception to a child’s second birthday. Cash transfers have been found to be very easy and convenient for women like Tekia.

“I have learnt that I should feed my child with nutritious food so that he will grow healthy,” she says. “I am also aware that I’ve to be conscious of my diets during my pregnancy.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is provided by WFP.