‘The biggest challenge we face is how to get these eggs to the children and pregnant women,’Kalpana Beesabathuni, Sight and Life
Sight and Life seeks to end malnutrition among women and children by introducing evidence-based nutritional innovations. In Malawi, the NGO achieves this through what are known as Egg Hubs: groups of small farmers organised around central hubs, thus managing to work more efficiently in order to increase local egg production. ‘The biggest challenge we face is how to get these eggs to the children and pregnant women,’ says Kalpana Beesabathuni of Sight and Life.
More than 15 million people in rural Malawi are affected by severe malnutrition. In 2018, Sight and Life noted that poultry production was dependent on chickens kept in people’ s backyards. Mortality among these birds is extremely high, and the chicken excrement is particularly harmful to children. ‘Only thirty eggs a day can be produced for a village with a population of a thousand. These eggs are generally small, of low quality and still very expensive,’ says Kalpana Beesabathuni, the Egg Hub project manager. ‘Since local production is not sufficient, even more expensive eggs from the cities are often sold in the village shops.’
Sight and Life realised that a relatively easy intervention in the value chain would improve the production and consumption of locally produced eggs, and that this would be a significant step towards combating malnutrition, especially among women and children. Kalpana: ‘Research shows that eggs contain high nutritional value in addition to many essential nutrients that, in many cases, stimulate the growth and development of children.’ In an effort to upscale egg production and encourage people to take their chickens ‘out of the backyard’, Sight and Life created the Egg Hub model. ‘The model involves small groups of five backyard farmers working together around a corn mill that can produce chicken feed. Each group manages about a thousand chickens. The farmers are trained in new techniques, for example, in how to deal with chicken faeces. Furthermore, these chickens have been vaccinated to reduce the incidence of disease.’
With support from Dioraphte, Sight and Life can now provide farmers with a corn mill and a low-interest loan, which they can repay gradually over a three-year period. This first phase includes seventy farmers, of which half are women. Their earnings have increased three times over as a result of doubling egg production. Individual egg prices have fallen and egg consumption has gone from two to seven eggs per capita per month. Given the success of this intervention, Dioraphte is also supporting the further development of this project. The objective is to increase egg consumption to ten eggs per month.
According to Kalpana, the biggest challenge is how to ensure that the eggs reach the target group most in need: pregnant women and small children: ‘Traditionally, the male members of the household get the first and biggest portion of good food, which includes eggs. We would like to shift that emphasis so that children and pregnant women come first. With the help of nurses in medical centres for example, we are raising awareness among men and women on the benefits of eggs for their children. Moreover, we have been deploying a social marketing campaign in order to change the hierarchical nature of household egg consumption.’