Soils, Food and Healthy Communities

Soils, Food and Healthy Communities

Summary: A group of scientists, farmers and staff from development organizations in Malawi and Tanzania put together an integrated curriculum on agroecology, climate change, nutrition and social equity. This training material was written in such a way that rural people with limited education can use it to teach other farming households ways to build more sustainable, resilient, healthy and equitable rural communities. A team of farmers, agricultural and social scientists, nutritionists, development organization staff, theatre & communication specialists met regularly in ‘virtual’ space, compiled literature held a week long participatory workshop to develop the curriculum outline. Team members contributed modules which were then integrated using a ‘soap opera’ format, along with participatory activities, visual tools, stories & drama.

Once a draft was completed, farmers were trained by other farmers using the curriculum in both sites, and then revised and re-translated based on farmer feedback. In Malawi, half of households had a “drama-enriched’ curriculum to test the impacts of drama in farmer-led teaching, an example of which can be found here: Malawi Curriculum Example.

Research Design: A longitudinal, pre/post quasi experimental panel study design was used to test the curriculum with 500 households in Malawi (with the Malawi Farmer-to-Farmer Agroecology project) and 400 in Tanzania (with the Singida Nutrition and Agroecology project). We tested the impacts on food security, nutrition, equity, farmer knowledge and practice. Data analysis is currently underway.

Sharing our Curriculum: Our long-term goal is to create a curriculum that farmers throughout southern and eastern Africa can use to improve knowledge and ultimately build resilient rural communities with improved soil health, human nutrition and community well-being.  The current versions available for free download (for non-profit use only) have been tested in 3 African languages (Swahili, Tumbuka and Chewa). There is also an English version available. Please contact Rachel Bezner Kerr (rbeznerkerr@cornell.edu) if you would like to receive a copy.

Partners: This curriculum project was a collaboration between many people, based at Cornell University, SFHC, Northwestern University, University of Malawi, Chancellor College, University of Manitoba, Michigan State University, Action Aid Tanzania and Nelson Mandela African Institute for Science and Technology (NMAIST). It was funded through the generous support of a Academic Venture Fund from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell University.