In Nigeria’s Kano State, an innovative solution to child malnutrition

The success of the dietary diversity project in Kano State presents Nigeria with something significant to share with the global community when the world meets to discuss Food Systems at the UN Summit this September

Samuel Kaalu, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria
A woman in her farm
23 February 2021

Kano, 23 February 2021 - Every morning, Sadiya Abubakar, a 30-year-old mother of four, feeds a goat and its two kids before she attends to her chores for the day. It’s an important task, as she knows that feeding the small herd is a step towards better health for her own young children and others in her support group.

“When the goat produces more kids, it’ll also be a source of meat, providing the animal protein our children need for healthy growth,” she said.

As a member of the Gala mothers support group, Sadiya receives support from UNICEF for livestock and poultry farming, part of a dietary diversity project to address malnutrition in children aged 6-23 months. Her group, which also engages in home vegetable gardening, is one of 28 mothers’ groups in Sumaila Local Government Area of Kano State, in norther Nigeria, that benefit from the UNICEF-funded project.

The 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey report revealed poor average infant feeding practices in Kano, with low dietary diversity, minimum meal frequency and a minimum acceptable diet for children aged 6-23 months. The survey also found low consumption of meat, dairy and eggs.

Another study, the 2019 dietary diversity baseline survey, reported a similar trend of low consumption of animal foods, reinforcing the need for the project in Kano State. 

Under the project, implemented through the NGO, Society for Women Development and Empowerment of Nigeria (SWODEN), in collaboration with Kano State Government, each mothers’ support group of 15 members receives three goats for rearing, or one goat for each five members. Sadiya, who is currently breastfeeding, was happy when the goat given to her group produced two kids, as it increased the milk that will be available for children of the group members.

Along with livestock, chickens are also distributed for poultry farming. According to project data, 1,080 women across 72 support groups in Bichi and Sumalia LGAs have received three hens, each.

Maimuna Ahmen, a mother of four from Rimi, said the intervention helps ensure a more varied and nutritious diet for children and lactating mothers. “For every 10 eggs my hen lays, I give one to my child,” she said. The mothers in Bichi and Sumaila LGAs also received seeds to grow spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions, as well as pawpaw and mango seedlings. “We now enjoy fruits and vegetables,” said Maimuna.

A woman feeding her livestock

To ensure good yield, agricultural extension workers from the agriculture department of the LGA pay weekly visits to the mothers’ support groups, teaching them how to take care of their livestock and vegetable farms.

The success of the project has ignited social change in many communities. Some mothers now make voluntary contributions to buy more goats, and the traditional leaders in Gala and Rimi have provided free land to local support groups for farming. Sadiya, a primary school teacher, shares information with her pupils on appropriate feeding practices for infant and young children.

“Reducing stunting in children as a hugely important area of work for UNICEF,” said Elhadji Diop, UNICEF Nutrition Manager at the Kano Field Office. “The dietary diversity project in Kano was conceptualized in 2018 to contribute to achieving this critical goal.”

She said Kano State was selected because of the high levels of stunting and low levels of consumption of several food groups, especially animal proteins and vegetables.

“We are excited that the project has been such a success where it is being implemented,” said Diop. “We will now use the evidence of its success to advocate for replicating the intervention across all LGAs in Kano State.”

The success of the dietary diversity project in Kano State presents Nigeria with something significant to share with the global community when the world meets to discuss Food Systems at the UN Summit this September. Nigeria kicked off preparations for that summit today with a national Inception Dialogue flagged-off by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.