Burkina Faso: Learning how to counter malnutrition locally and naturally in the face of food insecurity and drought

Ankur Sohanpal | August 3rd, 2012, 3:47 pm

One of the biggest threats to world development is the prevalence of malnutrition, especially in children, in the developing world. It is what causes physical and mental debilitation in generations upon generations of the countries’ future workforce.

One of the reasons for persistent malnutrition is that the perceived cost of nutritionally providing for both children and people in the poorer parts of developing countries, with traditionally used materials (in many instances, sourced by aid agencies and other agents from outside, rather than locally) is usually very high. Once aid for emergency situations (like SAM – Severe Acute Malnutrition) is stopped, children are let allowed to slide back into nutritional neglect caused by unavailability of affordably fortified food.

In this post, we are going to take a look at practices to supplement food with materials available not only locally, but also naturally – in a region where food availability and nutrition levels are always critical during the dry season.

Burkina Faso is included in the part of Africa that is suffering from a severe drought. It forms a part of SSA (sub-Saharan Africa) where 30 per cent of the population is undernourished – the highest in the world. Moreover, malnutrition affects nearly 40 per cent of the rural poor in Burkina Faso. It is obvious that emergency aid is required in the country, and essential conditions of food security are appalling.

Burkina Faso’s people have always been reliant on their trees for food, but in the current conditions of drought, they have been using their most valuable resource in all the wrong ways. The Moringa tree, locally known as the ‘tree of paradise’, has high levels of Vitamins A, B and C, besides Calcium, Iron and Proteins. Its utility is the highest for infants and children, and breast feeding mothers. Children fed Moringa are found to have low levels of malnutrition, almost never fall sick, and when they do, recover very soon. It is also very well adapted to droughts. Moreover, Baobab tree leaves are rich in Vitamin C, Calcium and Magnesium. Its fruit has 6 times more Vitamin C than oranges, and twice as much Calcium as milk. Yet, the utility of these trees as sources of nutrition in times of dearth of food and money is neglected. The trees are cut down for its wood, and sometimes burned down for the honey. The consequence is that there are very few trees left now. This makes the population vulnerable to high levels of malnutrition due to food unavailability. The video also suggests that the development organizations that do come in the area to help do not engage in benefiting from the available resources either.

Watch the video here.