Improving complementary feeding practices has been identified as one of the most effective interventions to reduce chronic malnutrition in children. A large scale grainbank project was implemented between 2013-2015 in rural communities in 4 regions of Ethiopia, including capacity building of mothers in complementary food production.
A qualitative process evaluation was conducted at the end of the project. Case studies in 8 kebeles (two per region), employed focus group discussions and interviews among purposely selected representatives of women’s groups, caregivers/ mothers, fathers, government administrators, health extension workers and agricultural officers.
The project supported building mother’s local knowledge and capacity on complementary feeding practices, and production of improved complementary foods. Contextual factors that facilitated acceptance of the project included commitment of local champions and established community structures creating opportunities for community mobilization. Challenges included the competing priorities faced by health providers and community leaders towards managing the grainbank as well as mother’s time and effort needed to produce the complementary food at the grainbank in absence of any compensation.
Mothers appreciate the newly acquired knowledge, skills and perceived health benefits of the complementary food on their children but are conflicted with regards to the time investments asked of them. Identifying incentives to compensate for labour are important determinants for future success for the project. In addition, the commitments required from health providers and community leaders for the management of the grain bank poses a threat to sustainability. Further exploration whether a grainbank structure is crucial for the project’s success is needed.