Melas Cayrol Adoko is Beninese by nationality and he completed a Master’s of Science in Food security and Community Nutrition from Gulu University (Uganda). As a key requirement for obtaining the Master’s degree, he, like other students was expected to successfully carry out a research for effective community transformation in relation to his course. For Melas, his research focused on “Improving the Vitamin A and Iron content of a cassava-based pancake for children ages 2-5years’’. A community-oriented recommendation that came out of his research was to promote the consumption of the nutrient-rich pancakes because they are rich in key micronutrients such as Iron and Vitamin A as well macronutrients of health value. Melas shares his engagement with the communities and how RUFORUM Field Attachment Program Award (FAPA) added value to his research finding.
Four pieces of the cassava-based pancake would be enough to meet the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for children 2-5 years for Vitamin A as well as for Iron. The findings from the study required to be disseminated and through the RUFORUM Field Attachment Program Award (FAPA), I received support to undertake a community engagement to disseminate the research findings as part of supporting rural community capacity building aimed at enhancing rural nutritional outcomes. In my FAPA, I focused on promoting the production and consumption of a nutrient-rich pancake for children 2-5 years in Northern Uganda for better nutritional outcomes.
The dissemination exercise engaged pancake processors, caregivers of children 2-5 years, children 2-5 Years, children focused community based organizations (CBOs), primary school leaders, and children focused Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Through this FAPA engagement, 200 caregivers and 50 pancake processors were trained on dual fortification of cassava-based pancakes enriched with OFSP and Iron-rich beans. Furthermore, 60 stakeholders from CBOs, NGOs and Schools were engaged in research dissemination workshop. Most of these stakeholders were involved during implementation. The involvement of these stakeholders was based on their expected contribution to the enhanced production and consumption of nutrient rich pancakes in the communities. The dissemination provided an avenue for building their capacity with knowledge that would better position them to promote the product by supporting its production and encouraging consumption.
This would ensure sustainability at community level. Secondly, the primary school leaders struggle with school feeding and engaging them in the disseminating created a platform for them to get an alternative local product for potential inclusion in their school feeding programs. This will widen use of the new product and realisation of its nutritional benefits to children beyond the age group originally targeted in the research. Engagement of CBOs and NGOs that focus on children’s affairs in the dissemination specifically was important in addressing the resource constraints that may affect promotion of the new product, as it would provide opportunities for funding to producers, support to schools as well as potential inclusion into their child health and nutrition promotional activities.
My experience in the field was quite exciting and life transforming. Seeing myself in a position where I could provide rural communities with practical knowledge for better nutrition was a unique experience. Training and disseminating the results of my MSc findings to the communities and other stakeholders positioned me to a level where I can contribute to rural community transformation through training on value addition. It has helped me to develop my communication, leadership, organization and project management skills.
Based on the success of the dissemination exercise, it is my hope that the nutrient-rich pancakes will find their space in the diets of the persons in the rural communities and will continue to be produced and consumed beyond the lifetime of my community engagement.
Communities and stakeholders appreciated the practical approach of my dissemination exercise and welcomed the innovation. Since OFSP and Iron-rich beans are the two major new ingredients used for enriching the cassava-based pancakes, farmers that participated in the training promised to scale-up production of the two food materials. A rapid cost benefit analysis carried out with the local pancake processors revealed that the nutrient-rich pancake processing business is highly profitable. Based on this, pancake processors promised to venture into the nutrient-rich cassava-based pancakes business. I am extremely grateful to Mastercard Foundation and RUFORUM for supporting this dissemination exercise and enabling us to positively impact rural communities.