Encouraging Fathers to Become Active Participants in Improved Nutrition
Often when we talk about gender and agriculture, we discuss ways to increase mothers’ participation in growing nutritious foods so they can feed their families or use the income from selling excess crops to buy healthy foods. But gender has to be more than just about women. How can we encourage men and fathers to better support their partners to ensure the best harvest and nutrition outcomes?
One way USAID’s multi-sectoral nutrition project, Strengthening Partnerships, Results and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING), is promoting male involvement in Niger is through community video. Located in Africa’s Sahel region, Niger often experiences harsh climate conditions that contribute to structural food crises and high rates of malnutrition. Cultural norms and practices such as polygamy, an emphasis on male decision-making, and low literacy levels further affect family dynamics and nutrition outcomes. When these factors are considered, it’s easy to see why community video has a positive effect, as it provides a new platform to overcome some of these challenges and simultaneously encourages equal participation between men and women in decision-making and improved nutrition outcomes.
The community videos we’ve produced cover a wide range of nutrition and agriculture topics, and they also address gender norms head on. One video in particular features a community advisor telling men that they should discuss the quantity of food consumed each day with their wives and divide the harvest into different parts to ensure food is available for consumption all year long. The next scene shows two men following this advice and discussing with their wives. Here’s why this approach works: video breaks down barriers associated with low literacy levels. Watching is often easiest to understand and when the actors on the screen look and talk just like the viewers, they are more likely to believe they can and should do the same. In Niger, promoting joint decision-making when it comes to harvest and meal planning helps families eat healthy year-round.
To learn more about how the community video approach is strengthening spousal communication, encouraging male involvement and improving nutrition in Niger, check out SPRING’s “The Father Factor” report.