Contribute to preventing and reducing chronic malnutrition, through access to nutrition information via mobile technology
Project start date : 15/02/2015
Beneficiary country : Malawi Zambia
About the project
The M-Nutrition initiative provides rural communities with access to free, on-demand information on nutrition through mobile phone technology. SHA’s experts on food and nutrition security work closely with Self Help Africa (SHA) services provider partners, Viamo/ HNI and national government ministries, to develop relevant and dynamic content on nutrition that is disseminated via a national information service, which can be accessed by anyone living in a country with access to any kind of mobile phone. Telecommunications partners provide in-kind financing through raising awareness of the service among their customer bases. Users dial a free number (e.g. 3-2-1), navigate a menu to select the information they are specifically interested in hearing/reading. They are able to access recorded voice messages or written SMS messages in local languages on a variety of nutrition topics, including for example information on breastfeeding, young child feeding and recipes. The first 8 messages are free to the user, with subsequent messages accessed at a low charge rate. The M-Nutrition initiative works as an effective complement to SHA’s work with smallholder communities to increase and diversify food production and consumption in rural areas across sub-Saharan Africa.
Malnutrition is a serious public health problem across sub-Saharan Africa, and is one of the main causes of child and maternal mortality, as well as a contributing factor to a number of preventable diseases, poor physical and cognitive development and productivity losses. The achievement of food and nutrition security depends on four dimensions : food availability, access, stability and utilisation (World Food Summit, 1996). Access to information about nutrition, infant and young child feeding and food preparation is critical to ensuring adequate access to availability and utilisation of food to achieve optimal nutrition outcomes – reducing prevalence of stunting, wasting and avoiding preventable deaths and diseases, particularly in childhood and maternity. Awareness raising on nutrition-specific information is a common component of many food-related policies and programmes, but these often use communication methods (mass media campaigns or large-scale information sessions), which fail to reach the poorest members of rural communities who may not have access to a radio or television, or live in areas underserved by existing government services and NGO programmes. In addition to failing to reach some of the populations most vulnerable to nutrition insecurity, mass-media campaigns are unlikely to bring about changes in behaviour necessary to improve nutrition outcomes sustainably.
The M-Nutrition initiative offers added value compared to other solutions in terms of its cost-effectivess, capacity to successfully stimulate behaviour change, potential reach and sustainability. According to GSMA’s 2017 report on the mobile economy, mobile phone penetration rates in sub-Saharan Africa were as high as 75% in 2016, and predicted to reach 87% by 2020. The use of mobile technology to disseminate nutrition information enables SHA to reach large numbers of poor, rural households who may not have access to mass media, but do have mobile phones, or access to mobile phones owned by spouses, relatives or neighbours, all for a fraction of the cost of mass-media or sensitisation activities. Building on several years of trialling, monitoring and evaluation, the M-Nutrition initiative has been developed to disseminate accessible and relevant content on nutrition to large numbers of users, which has proven to be much more effective in encouraging behaviour change than other types of intervention. An evaluation of a previous SHA-HNI/Viamo collaboration in Malawi showed that the M-Nutrition model helped erase the gap between improved knowledge on nutrition and household practices through enabling repeated access to dynamic and participatory content (compared, for example, with radio campaigns which don’t allow users to listen to key messages more than once). In addition, the economic model of the initiative relies only on an initial investment in content and platform development before moving to a cost-sharing arrangement between mobile networks and users, which makes it a sustainable way to reach people in need of information beyond a typical 3-year project cycle. Finally, the 3-2-1 service can support and reinforce positive results of SHA’s work with rural communities across sub-Saharan Africa, seeking to address challenges relating to food access, availability and stability through increasing and diversifying food production and building rural households’ economic resilience.
1 Full-Time equivalents
1 Service providers
Number of beneficiaries since launch