Increase nutritional status of children through better feeding practices, a healthier family diet, and improved family planning.
To most effectively address chronic childhood malnutrition, our program interventions focus on the right nutrition for mothers and children in the “first 1,000 days” (beginning with conception through the child’s second birthday). In these crucial days, the body is quickly laying down its fundamental building blocks for brain development and future growth. Any disturbance leaves a long-lasting mark: damage from undernutrition in early life is largely irreversible.
We apply our participatory community education and capacity-building model to nutrition education that addresses nutrition during pregnancy, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding for 24 months, gradual introduction of complementary foods after six months of age, demonstrations on how to use locally available food to prepare nutritious meals, and hygienic food handling. Nutritious snacks are also provided at all community activities. ABPD trains local youth to take care of children using early childhood stimulation techniques while their mothers are being trained on nutrition.
Access to healthy foods is a key component to nutrition, and we address this through sustainable agriculture programs that help increase food security. ABPD works to improve the production of local staple foods like corn and beans through the use of more sustainable fertilizing techniques, improving soil quality and preservation, reducing post-harvest losses, and using seeds that are less susceptible to the effects of climate.
Dairy goats are an important component of our efforts to defeat chronic malnutrition and address the impact of climate change. They are a resilient source of nutrients that are not affected by tropical storms. Goat milk is an excellent source of calcium and vital minerals for children suffering from malnutrition. They are easy to sustain, can eat almost anything, and their manure serves as healthy compost for family gardens. Goats adapt to the rocky highlands of Guatemala better than cows do, require less food, and consume less water. Importantly, the pesky problem of lactose intolerance doesn’t occur with goat milk. Our goat project is simple and sustainable: families who have children under five that are malnourished receive a milking goat. The family commits to giving the first female offspring of that goat to another family until all children in the community have access to goat milk.
Family gardens also help ensure a low-cost and easily available source of vitamins through small-scale production of fruits and vegetables. We promote sustainable farming techniques that can be implemented using locally available resources. ABPD provides an initial donation of seeds to help families start their gardens and families gradually contribute more of their own funds to purchase future seeds. Many families are able to produce sufficient amounts of food that they can sell extra produce to generate the income necessary to re-invest in seeds, fertilizers, and insecticides. When possible, teaches seed savings techniques.
To ensure adequate nutrition for their family, parents must be able to determine the number and spacing of their children. High birth rates contribute to large total family size and closely spaced births, and are an indirect contributor to chronic malnutrition. The family planning component of the program is integrated into all of our training activities. Nearly one third of married, indigenous women of reproductive age have a self-reported, unmet need for contraception. ABPD provides individual family planning counseling and makes a variety of contraceptive methods available to program participants.