Masi Ambassadors

The Nourished Child research project was a collaborative project between Stellenbosch University (SU), City, University of London, and University of Cape Town (UCT). It aimed to define and communicate what a systems approach for improving the quality of diets among children under five years and women of childbearing age to address the double burden of malnutrition would look like in urban setting. It endeavoured to do so by looking at factors that undermine healthy diets and aimed to find insights and actions to inform a system’s approach to these challenges. To this end, qualitative research was conducted in Masiphumelele and Zweletemba, examples of low-resourced communities similar to many in the country, comparable to other urban and peri-urban areas that are burdened with poor infrastructure, high unemployment rates, and poverty.

 

One key insight that came from the research was that community led initiatives which holds the health and wellbeing of the child’s wellbeing at its core has the potential to gain support and attention from a variety of stakeholders across different sectors. This is because the goal of child wellbeing, apart from eliciting a deeply emotional response, necessitates scrutiny into aspects of social development, hygiene and sanitation, economic development, health, basic education and urban and spatial planning. Keeping the child at the center of the community led initiative thus has the potential to co-create goals that crosses the borders of various systems has the potential to bring together stakeholders.

With these challenges in mind, and the Nourished Child study insights taken into account, the Southern Africa Food Lab University partnered with the Masiphumelele Creative Hub (MCH), an active and dynamic NGO in the community known to the researchers from the Nourished Child study, to establish an initiative through which community members could be trained as local Ambassadors to help achieve this ideal of improving nutrition knowledge and practices.

Following a selection process by the MCH leaders, six community members between the ages of 19 and 35 were selected as Nourished Child Ambassadors. These Ambassadors took part in a 10-session training programme. The programme was designed to encourage the selected Ambassadors to set their own vision and goals to guide their role and activities in the community and also recruited expert facilitators and guest speakers to provide the Ambassadors adequate insights, resources and training to support the Ambassadors to understand the different aspects of the food system and for them to create their own action plan.

The Ambassadors developed the following vision and goals:

Vision:

A healthier Masiphumelele by 2050

Goals:

  1. The Ambassadors will support building a holistic enabling environment for children in Masiphumelele through advocating for change, engaging nutrition education, connecting stakeholders, and supporting households, ECDs, primary schools and vendors. This will be built on a thorough understanding of the value of investment in Infant and Young Child Feeding and communicating this effectively across society.
  2. This project will reinforce healthy nutrition execution to the people of Masiphumelele community, ECDs, primary schools and vendors, so that they can substitute their practise of selling, cooking and consuming unhealthy food that contribute to poor health. In the long term we will create more healthy generations, who are less vulnerable to diseases and children who can profit more from the education that is offered and show less behaviour problems. They will have better results in school, will profit more from sports and become stronger to defend themselves having healthier and stronger bodies. This will also have a positive effect on the costs of diseases and healthcare.
  3. The most important goal in time from this project will be that the people of Masiphumelele are empowered to take responsibility for their own health by changing their environment and their diets. Not only by making good decisions based on education and awareness, but also in concrete ways of growing vegetables themselves or taking part of the community vegetable garden. Masiphumelele is a strong and tight community. Starting awareness in some groups will have a domino-effect on other people of the community.