Ouessa is located in the Southwest region. It experiences more significant rainfall than elsewhere with relatively rich natural resources. People have access to a reasonable variety of food and have the potential to eat highly nutritive meals. Though starvation is not a conspicuous problem in Ouessa, malnutrition does remain an issue, and, by and large, it is a changeable one. The host organization and Peace Corps Volunteer determined that the best means to address this issue was by organizing an event to disseminate the knowledge necessary for Ouessa families to consume healthy, well balanced meals and contribute to long term healthier lifestyles.
After being awarded the West African Food Security Partnership (WAFSP) fund, our “Nutrition and Culinary Diversity Training”, began on the last two Saturdays of January 2016. During the first training, participants attended sessions on the various types of foods and how to compose a balanced meal, the function and benefits of these various foods in the body, nutritional guidance for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as well as young children, the importance and nutritional benefits of consuming local fruits and of diversifying one’s diet, and the nutritional benefits of consuming moringa leaves. Speakers as well as Peace Corps Volunteers and venerable community members helped facilitate sessions and support the project. Over 90 individuals from the various villages attended. They were motivated, enthusiastic and engaged, truly demonstrating interest as well as successful retention of knowledge (visible by the pre and post test scores). At the end of the first Saturday, the women of the association “Femme Leve Toi et Marche” [Women Get up and Walk] were re-divided into their preexisting work groups, and each group was given the sum of money to plan for the most highly nutritious and creative meal they could think of, based on the learning of the nutrition training. One week later everyone gathered once more for the competition day. As instructed the previous week, all four groups met with their various ingredients, and preparations began. Once the food was ready, each team brought out their meal to present to the audience. They described the meal, explaining the various ingredients and demonstrating its nutritional benefits in citing the learned knowledge from the previous week. After the judges, chosen from among the esteemed individuals of Ouessa, and the Volunteers assisting at the event were served a sampling of each meal, and stepped aside to judge the meals based on the established criteria; Nutrition, hygiene, creativity and taste. Once the points were calculated we shared our findings with the group at large, taking this opportunity to congratulate all groups on a job well done, and to point out small ways in which a given meal could have been improved. For example, using less oil, or cooking vegetables for a lesser amount of time to maintain vitamins and maximize nutritional value etc. In the end, though only one group could win, everyone left victorious. The meals were not only balanced, creative and delicious, but in some cases also demonstrated knowledge that had been imparted through previous training and technical exchanges organized since Volunteer arrived in Ouessa.