Health, Nutrition, and Social Inclusion in Tanzania
This post is written by Jennie Rabinowitz, Program Manager, Fintrac Inc.
Dorothy Magesse is responsible for ensuring health, nutrition, and social inclusion are incorporated into Fintrac’s programming. As Nutrition and Social Inclusion Director for the Feed the Future Tanzania Mboga na Matunda (FTFT-MnM) Activity, Dorothy leads a team of four specialists across five regions to manage gender, youth, and nutrition activities. To date, her team has worked with more than 27,000 women and more than 32,000 youth, representing 47 percent and 56 percent of total program participants, respectively.
The beginnings of a career in social inclusion
FTFT-MnM isn’t Dorothy’s first time working in this arena. She first started at Fintrac in 2010 as the HIV/AIDS Program Manager on the earlier Tanzania Agriculture Productivity Project (TAPP). She was drawn to the project because of its promotion of high-value crops to move smallholders into commercial production. When TAPP readjusted to align with the Feed the Future initiative in 2012, Dorothy transitioned to Health & Nutrition Manager with a focus on ensuring women and youth understood the importance of proper nutrition in all aspects of life.
Incorporating social inclusion into horticulture
Dorothy and her team train individuals in the productivity and profitability of the horticulture value chain. “To make sure that we have a good number of women and youth, we are encouraging them to participate in different activities in the value chain, not only agriculture or farming,” she said. “We are also making them aware of other income-generating activities.”
In 2017, Dorothy and her team began working with small horticultural enterprises run by women and youth. To identify groups with potential for commercial success, the team held a business competition. The winners — assessed based on their crop management, record keeping, replication, knowledge of the GAPS, and production levels (during the growing season) – won acceleration products and services such as agricultural inputs, access to finance, and advisory on their business services, plans, and budgets. The winners asked to select inputs of their choice for the expansion of their production. The prizes were awarded during an event where other farmers observed that, following the GAPs can make horticulture a profitable business.
Dorothy explained that “the aim is to ensure women and youth can access the resources they need for production, and to support them in becoming independent.” The winners – three youth-owned enterprises and two women-owned enterprises – are now doing just that, and selling products such as avocados and papaya seedlings.
Changing behavior in nutrition
Across FTFT-MnM’s activities, Dorothy and her team also incorporate nutrition messaging into other program activities through on-site cooking demonstrations or spirited discussions on consuming locally-available and nutrient-rich foods. Dorothy said she has seen significant shifts in farmer behavior and understanding regarding nutrition. “In some areas, farmers are growing nutrient-rich crops, but are not consuming them because they are not used to eating them. When we conduct cooking demonstrations, we take the kitchen to the communities,” she said. “Once farmers are able to taste the food, then they start consuming it at their homes.”
In changing farmer perceptions about nutrition, one of Dorothy’s biggest takeaways is about portion size. Tanzanian diets consist largely of staples such as maize and beans. Farmers are concerned that replacing these heavier foods with smaller portions of nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, and animal protein, will leave them feeling unsatisfied. To combat this misconception, Dorothy and her team provide trainings on the importance of dietary diversity, and they ensure farmers understand that when they incorporate multiple food groups into a balanced meal, they will feel satisfied for longer despite a smaller portion size.
A background spanning all areas of agriculture
With over 20 years of experience in community empowerment — including in agriculture, livestock, nutrition, economic strengthening, and capacity building — Dorothy is a key member of Fintrac’s Tanzania team. With a degree in agricultural economics, Dorothy is passionate about empowering farmers to make informed decisions of what crops to grow for increased incomes, instead of just for a source of food. This actionable, farmer-focused method encouraged behavior change.
“Agricultural economics is not only about farming,” she said. “It is about assisting farmers in entering into commercial agriculture. It is sharing knowledge to support farmers to be business-oriented instead of just waking up each morning and cultivating their harvest, while unaware of the market.”
With Mboga na Matunda, Dorothy continues to support people to change their lives, increase their incomes, and fight poverty. She says she is really happy to be a part of it all, especially as Tanzania grows and becomes a stronger agricultural economy.
“I keep encouraging them, showing them that if they work hard, they can do something to earn their own incomes. They are happy when they see me. I remind them that hard work and commitment is the source of success.”