“My son, Phi, used to be underweight. He weighed about 2.7kg when he was born at home, but a newborn often weighs three,” says 24-year-old Giac, a Kor ethnic minority woman living in the mountainous district of Tra Bong in Quang Ngai province.
“It was painful when I couldn’t breastfeed him any more at six months old, but less than when my umbilical cord was cut [by my mother] with a bamboo knife,” recalls the young farmer, who used to lack a stable livelihood.
Giac’s family owns no land to grow rice or cash crops. Instead, she and her husband lease a 700-square-metre field, paying the rent with one-third of their rice harvest. The field can only feed the family for four months a year, however.
My favourite meal is frog porridge with beans and rice, which my mum cooks. She says I’ll be able to jump to school with my friends if I eat it.
During the fallow months, the struggling young couple worked as unskilled day labourers to avoid hunger. Phong worked as a mason, while Giac toiled all day on acacia tree plantations, clearing grass, stripping bark and loading trunks onto trucks.
Accepting calls to join the village’s World Vision-established nutrition club, Giac’s life changed four years ago. At its monthly meetings, community health workers train the club’s 15 mothers and other caregivers with under-fives in child care, hygiene and preventing common diseases.
Members also learn about vegetable gardening and how to cook nutritious meals with homegrown and otherwise locally available ingredients. More importantly, the sessions and support allow families to raise pigs and chickens to boost their daily food intake and livelihoods, meaning mothers have more time to take care of their young children.
Two years ago, World Vision gave Giac a sow to use for breeding, with its piglets now providing her household with an annual income of around five million dong (230 US dollars).
“If my family hadn’t received support from World Vision, my husband and I would still be struggling to get by,” Giac says. “And we wouldn’t know when we’d have enough money to buy a sow.”
“Rearing pigs is now our source of income. We get six piglets from one litter,” she adds. “The pigs earn money for my family and my child’s education.”
“My son, Phi, hasn’t been malnourished since I started following the nutrition club’s advice,” she continues. “Next year, he’ll start in grade one like the other children in my village. The nutrition club has made our dream come true.”
Four-year-old Phi says: “My favourite meal is frog porridge with beans and rice, which my mum cooks. She says I’ll be able to jump to school with my friends if I eat it.”
Just under a quarter of the children in Giac and Phi’s village were malnourished at the end of 2014, compared to 40 per cent six years ago. Meanwhile, Phi is one of over 1,200 children and his mother one of nearly 1,000 members to benefit from the 46 nutrition clubs supported by World Vision’s Tra Bong development programme.
See more about Giac, her family and her community nutrition club:
Giac, her husband Phong and her son Phi have lunch together at their house. Phi eats nutritious meals grown and cooked by his mom since the day she participated in the nutrition club in her village.
Giac, her husband and son are in their garden with banana trees that they received seedlings from World Vision to enrich nutrient for their family meals as well as to boost their income.
Giac is with her husband and son in their special patch of garden that she kept especially for her son's vegetables. Also, sweet potato leaves are always available to add to the mash for her pigs.
Giac is feeding her pigs with her husband and son. Giac received one breeding piglet to boost her family’s income two years ago.
Giac and other members of community nutrition club are preparing rice, bean and vegetables to cook porridge for their children in a cooking demonstration hosted at a nutrition club member’s house.
Nutrition club’s members share porridge rations of the day for their children.
Nutrition club’s members weigh their children to monitor their monthly growth. By the end of 2014, the percentage of malnourished children in their community was 24.3 per cent. Compared to six years ago, this percentage decreased 16 per cent.