06/09/2022

Who are Light Mothers and how are they fighting hunger in Burundi?

My name is Ladislas, and I am a project facilitator for the Gender and Nutrition Centred Agriculture (GANCA) project, Ripple Effect Burundi. I work closely with Mamans Lumières or ‘Light Mothers’ like Claudine (pictured above), who are community volunteers in Burundi who are passionate about fighting child hunger and malnutrition.

Ladislas image

“What gives me most pleasure in my job is working for the community, and above all, training them in agriculture, sanitation, nutrition and the use of clean water.”

Ladislas Project Facilitator, Ripple Effect Burundi
Burundi where we work

The Challenge

Burundi is a small, landlocked country and is one of the most densely populated countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Food Programme, more than 70% of the population are living in poverty and over 90% of the population rely on agriculture for food and income. Poor soil fertility linked to deforestation, small plot sizes and the worsening climate crisis are all contributing to food insecurity and child malnutrition.

Food insecurity

The climate crisis means that traditional ways of farming may no longer be as successful as they used to be. Limited knowledge of climate-positive farming techniques, such as preventing soil erosion, and little access to organic manure to boost yields, means families are struggling to grow enough food in the face of extreme weather. Farming families have no surplus to sell, adding to poverty levels.

Our Approach

By working with both men and women in Burundi to learn more, grow more and sell more, families can release the potential in their land and escape the cycle of hunger and poverty.

A spotlight on Light Mothers

Mamans Lumières, or Light Mothers, play an important part in supporting families who are part of the GANCA project. With specialist training from project staff like me, Light Mothers support other mothers to fight hunger and malnutrition in children under 5 years old, creating ripples of hope in their communities.

They share vital knowledge on how to create thriving kitchen gardens that provide vegetables all year round, even in the face of the climate crisis. They also advise mothers how to prepare nutritious meals for their families, shine a light on family planning and promote good sanitation and hygiene.

Claudine with circle

“I most enjoy training and teaching other mothers like me how to eat nutritious food by adding vegetables to their meals. If they can’t afford vegetables, we train them how to plant kitchen gardens around their homes. This helps them to get vegetables easily without going too far.”

Claudine Light Mother, Ripple Effect Burundi

Tackling hunger and malnutrition

We help families to establish kitchen gardens, which are vegetable gardens built on previously unused and accessible land around the home, so they will always have access to food. Learning how to use natural compost to boost soil fertility can also have a positive impact on crop yields, creating flourishing gardens.

With support from Ripple Effect staff like me, Light Mothers also train other families in good sanitation and hygiene practices in the home. Teaching Light Mothers how to construct a clean and safe toilet is an important skill for them to then pass on to other mothers. Malnutrition is not just about the lack of food but can also be caused by illnesses like malaria and water-borne diseases. By equipping families with the skills, they need to construct a toilet, children can grow up healthy and happy.

Inside a Light Mother Kit

We equip Light Mothers with a specialist kit so they have all the resources and equipment they need to provide the best possible care and support to mothers and their children in the local community. Each kit includes:

  • MUAC band

    A mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) band is one of the simplest ways to identify malnutrition in children under the age of five years old.

  • Scales

    A set of scales and a height chart are used for checking whether a child is a healthy weight or height.

  • Thermometer

    Used to check the body temperature of children. Malnourished children can often have a lower body temperature.

  • Notebook

    Mothers receive a notebook where they can track their child’s progress over time.

  • Information Leaflet

    Training guides, leaflets and posters provide vital information on nutrition, breastfeeding and home hygiene so that mothers can keep their children healthy.

  • Umbrella

    As Light Mothers spend a lot of time travelling to meet families, an umbrella is especially useful to keep them dry and ensure that the rain doesn’t stop their vital work from taking place.

Chantal

“When we started working with Claudine, my Light Mother, she trained us how to cook nutritious food. We add vegetables to our meals because now we understand that they are important for our good health and growth.”

Chantal Ripple Effect Burundi

Your gift today, of any size, could help a Light Mother in Burundi fight child hunger and create a ripple of hope in their community.

By Ladislas Barakamfitiye

Ripple Effect Burundi Project Facilitator