PRIME Launches an Innovative Intervention to Promote Nutrition
More than 83 percent of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas, many as pastoralists and herders, who depend exclusively on the land and their livestock for food and livelihoods. For these populations, securing food and getting enough of the right foods is a daily struggle. Ingrained cultural behaviors like inadequate livestock care, poor maternal health and insufficient infant nutrition make it difficult for pastoralist communities to maintain consistent earnings and healthy families.
Pastoralists’ fragile health and livelihoods inhibit their ability to cope with the harsh conditions — drought, irregular rain, poverty and diminishing natural resources — they’re up against. While these challenges are complex and recurring, changing the lifestyle behaviors that make families more vulnerable will help them stand stronger — and recover faster — in the future.
Like the rest of her pastoralist community members, Dima Halke’s livelihood is milk, and her survival depends on her cows. As the only provider for her eight children, 49-year-old Dima sells milk to buy food, medicine and supplies for her family.
When droughts parch the pastures, Dima’s cattle can’t produce the quantity and quality of milk her family relies on. As she struggles to keep her livestock healthy, she must choose to spend precious funds on animal feed instead of food and medicine for her family. If she doesn’t, she risks losing the only livelihood she knows. Awareness and knowledge of keeping animals strong and family members healthy go a long way in ensuring food security and resilience for Dima and other pastoralist community members.
USAID-funded project Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improving through Market Expansion (PRIME) is a five-year project aiming at enhancing resilience, the ability to adapt to climate change, and improved nutritional status of women and children, mainly through improving livestock and livestock products productivity and market systems. PRIME is helping people diversify their incomes, develop reliable farming methods and improve their overall nutritional status.
Creating awareness among households to manage their resources better and more efficiently is an important strategy for PRIME to achieve its goals. Last month, in partnership with creative powerhouse Warner Bros., the project launched a radio soap opera to get inside the homes — and minds — of traditional pastoral families in Ethiopia. Through drama, love and conflict, PRIME wants to educate these communities and challenge some of the key behaviors that threaten their long-term food security, health, and wellbeing.
Through the radio soap opera, PRIME aims to transform some of the inherent behaviors and beliefs that prevent these families from thriving.
“This initiative taps into the strong Ethiopian tradition of oral storytelling and harnesses the power of stories to entertain and educate,” says Dominic Graham, Ethiopia Country Director for Mercy Corps. “Our goal is to help people facing repeated drought, hunger and poverty improve their long-term health through better decision making.”
Four Warner Bros. volunteers extended their creative expertise to develop interesting characters, compelling storylines and an impactful promotional strategy. They shared best practices for writing and marketing with our Ethiopia staff members to ensure longevity of the program, and spent time in Ethiopia in order to help shape stories that would be compelling and authentic.
The result is a radio drama that is on air in Afar, Oromia and Somali, with dialect and characters tailored to each of the three regions. Incorporating the details that make each of these areas unique, like names and common greetings, establishes familiarity and assures each audience can connect with the characters and messages. The program has been on air for a couple of weeks now and the feedback PRIME obtained so far is encouraging. Preliminary findings indicate that people are relating the story with their own lives and the story is generating discussions about marriage, career, success, livelihoods, natural resources, nutrition and wellbeing. How these discussions will lead to better decision making and how they will reflect on nutritional status remains to be seen. PRIME will formally monitor the progress of the soap opera in terms of achieving its short-term objective at the end of the fifth week of transmission.
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