In Burkina Faso, malnutrition is widespread. Among children under five years of age, 35% suffer from stunting, 10% from acute malnutrition, and 23% from wasting. Rural areas are the most affected by malnutrition with 90% of children under five being anemic and 37% suffering from stunting. The main causes are inadequate diets, infectious diseases (acute respiratory infections, diarrheas), and social and cultural practices. After the sixth month, an infant's diet must be suitable in terms of quantity and quality, and the body must be able to absorb the nutrients. In Burkina Faso, cereals constitute the main complementary food; nearly 33% of children six to eight months old eat cereal porridge in addition to breastfeeding. Patterns of seasonal availabilities, together with dietary practices, beliefs and taboos, reduce the contribution of animal-based products, vegetables, and legumes to children's diets.
Cereal-based diets can provide insufficient nutrients. Cereals are low in essential amino acids such as lysine and tryptophan. They contain compounds that hinder the gut’s absorption of proteins and micronutrients. Strategies for mitigating malnutrition include promoting the consumption of nutrient-rich foods and reducing micronutrient-chelating factors. Legumes, by contrast, are rich in essential amino acids. Adding legume flours to sorghum- or fonio-based porridges and flours can dramatically improve the protein content. Technological processes such as fermentation, germination and roasting improved the bioavailability of micronutrients by reducing the chelating factors.
In February 2016, the government of Burkina Faso, within the framework of its national nutrition policy, committed to reduce chronic malnutrition by 40% among children under five by 2020. This project will contribute to improve the nutritional status of children at Lebda and surrounding villages by making available adequate knowledge to households for the production and usage of high protein- and essential micronutrient-rich flours to meet children's nutritional needs. One basis of the approach will be a better understanding of the social and cultural context favoring or hindering behavior change in terms of nutritional habits.
The project team intends improve the nutritional status of children (six months to 12 years old) at the pilot site by increasing families’ knowledge about nutritious products, as well as the products’ availability and accessibility. The project will also gain and share lessons about strategies for post-harvest value addition to facilitate such outcomes more widely. The use of composite flours (cereal-plus-legume or "C+L" flour) of good nutritional value for the preparation of family meals, supplementary food and child-preferred products, will help make it possible to meet children's nutritional needs in the research site and beyond. Cowpea, soybean, groundnut, and Bambara nut will be the main legumes under study. The newly-developed C+L flours and products will be made available in markets of the surrounding villages. The need for adapted cereals and legumes for processing is expected to create market relationships between processors and farmers' organizations. This is expected to lead to legume intensification, which aligns well with CCRP’s priorities. Effective communication methods will be developed to increase the knowledge about the benefits and to enhance the consumption of C+L products. The communication approach will be adapted to the target group, e.g., children, mothers, heads of household, health professionals, and opinion leaders, recognizing and investigating option-by-context interaction for the efficiency of various communication tools. This project will be closely linked to the CCRP-funded Bambara nut, Seed systems, Processing, and Farmer Knowledge projects. It is expected to raise the awareness of these project teams and other community of practice (CoP) members about options to contribute to nutritional outcomes via agricultural research and local value chain development. The expertise, effort and awareness that this project will bring to the CoP are important, given the alarming rates of malnutrition and hidden hunger in West Africa.