Wednesday, February 8, 2012

SMART Trip: Zambia

Rebecca Gershon (MRP’12), Marion Smith (NS'13), Takako Hashida (CIPA'13), and Pratyush Ranjan Singh (IARD'12) also participated in the SMART program over the break. They worked with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in Mongu, Zambia investigating ways to better address nutrition concerns within the organization’s already existing agricultural programs. Joining them to conduct field research were four Zambian students, each in a master’s program in nutrition or public health, and several staff members at CRS and Caritas Mongua, a non-profit working with the Diocese and CRS. Utilizing a nutrition framework developed by a professor at Cornell, the team of fifteen divided into four groups to conduct specialized research on health, nutrition, agriculture, and livelihoods. Each group conversed with approximately ten ‘key informants,’in the communities among which included ministers, local government officials, extension workers, non-profit sector leaders, and educators. In addition, each team conducted participatory exercises in three different rural villages around Mongu, to gain an understanding of the critical issues affecting nutrition from the residents.

The project relates to planning in the sense that they had to determine how best to address the needs of a community of people. Rebecca observed, “Not unlike rural poverty in the US, many of the villager’s challenges were related to a lack of reliable transportation, inaccessible services due to low income, poor rural infrastructure, and educational or language barriers.” Many of the villages and communities had become so accustomed to receiving sporadic assistance from NGO’s and NPO’s, that they have been conditioned into thinking they couldn’t solve their own problems. Rebecca attested that, “It’s a clear example of why planners need to start thinking more about food accessibility within their scope of work.”

Over the course of the spring semester the team will be compiling the information gathered and formulating recommendations for CRS. They hope that the insights gained from the interviews and focus groups will shed some light onto how nutrition status can be improved through efforts that CRS is already engaged in.

Giraffes in Chobe National Park. Image provided by Rebecca Gershon.

The team conducted a mapping exercise in a school in the village of Mweke.  Image provided by  Rebecca Gershon.

A group of mothers worked on a daily food chart in Imulunga.  Image provided by Rebecca Gershon.
(Information provided by Rebecca Gershon)