USAID’s Climate Strategy in Action: Taking Climate Action While Improving Nutrition in Nigeria

By Ramatu Ada Ochekliye

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Group of women around large pot of soup
Binta Haruna, the Leader of the Hasken Mata Women Empowerment Group, demonstrates healthy food preparation.

This blog is part of the USAID’s Climate Strategy in Action series. It expands on a winning photo from the 2023 Climatelinks Photo Contest to highlight how USAID is confronting climate change across sectors.

Ningi is a bustling town in Bauchi State, Nigeria. Its residents are primarily farmers who rely on the area’s soil to grow crops like soybeans, maize, and millet and raise livestock like chickens, cows, and goats. However, ongoing and increased soil erosion caused largely by land use changes and extreme precipitation exacerbated by climate change degrades soil quality, decreases biodiversity, and can even lead to crop failure and increased risk of malnutrition

The effects of climate change on agricultural productivity result in limited access to nutritionally diverse foods and exacerbate already high levels of stunting in children and chronic energy deficiency in adults. According to the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2018, “Chronic energy deficiency is caused by eating too little or having an unbalanced diet that lacks adequate nutrients. It is well known that chronic energy deficiency leads to low adult productivity and heightened morbidity and mortality.” These consequences of climate change can be far-reaching for women in Ningi because of gender and social norms that affect their agency in household decision making, access to health care, and participation in economic activities. 

USAID Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria supports the people living in Ningi to enhance nutritional diversity using locally available food and better farming practices for improved individual, family, and community health and well-being. By integrating climate change into its health programming, Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria also helps the community build its climate resilience and protect biodiversity, in alignment with USAID's Climate Strategy target of strengthening the resilience of people vulnerable to climate change.

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Singular woman bent over working in field of crops
Woman farming in Ningi, Bauchi State, Nigeria.

The project builds the capacity of Hasken Mata (Women’s Light), small groups of 15-25 women, in maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition for optimal health. The women come together in a safe space to learn about and support each other to practice healthy behaviors, engage in income-generating activities, and build confidence in decision making for household health and economic decisions with their spouses. They learn to use locally sourced foods and materials to improve their dietary diversity, including the 4-star food preparation technique in which each meal contains nutrients from the four major food groups (animal sources, staple foods, legumes and seeds, and fruits and vegetables). 

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Two women looking at giant poster illustrating 4 star meal concept
A Hasken Mata member learning about the 4-star meal concept in Ningi, Bauchi State, Nigeria.

Similarly, Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria builds the capacities of these women, who are also part of ward development committees in Ningi, in agricultural best practices. Through step-by-step guidance on preparing soil, planting or transplanting crops, applying manure, and planting a variety of crops, the women learn how to cultivate their own gardens or farms to source nutritious meals. They also observe how sustainable agricultural activities, such as planting cover crops like legumes to help prevent soil erosion, can combat climate change and protect biodiversity.

As Binta Haruna, a Hasken Mata leader, explains, the program has changed her mindset around the power of local farms. 

“We have been taught to use what we have in our community for our food. We used to think these foods were not ‘modern’ because we wanted to be more like people in the cities with their rice and noodles. Now, we understand that our locally sourced foods are healthy, and we can cook diverse meals from them. I urge the women in our communities to eat what we farm.”

Through Breakthrough ACTION Nigeria, USAID is improving individual, family, and community nutrition and changing health norms in communities like Ningi. By encouraging women to grow their own nutritionally diverse produce and engage in better agricultural practices, the project also contributes to biodiversity conservation and climate change adaptation

Country
Nigeria
Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Integration
Topics
Adaptation, Agriculture, Food Security, Gender and Social Inclusion, Health, Nutrition, Resilience
Region
Africa

Ramatu Ada Ochekliye

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