How does lowering stress improve diets?

In Mozambique, parents are less stressed and families are eating better food. Find out how.

“It was a surprise. I never thought I could change. I went to the training and thought I would not be different, but I can see the change in my own life.” Sometimes, quotes from participants tell a more compelling story than numbers do. The Early Childhood Development Project is one of those projects. The numbers are good, but the stories really grab you. The show a transformation in people’s sense of self—and an awareness that they are changing the world.

“Now [my] plate is full of many different fruits, this is how I love my children,” says one mother. “I was just a useless donkey before, but now I am a boat. I’m useful. I can help people to cross the river,” says another volunteer. “I am now a person---a person who listens to others.”

The Early Childhood Development project ran from 2009 to 2018 in Mozambique with $3.6 million in support from the Hilton Foundation. The evaluation measures changes between 2014-2016. It reached more than 10,000 people directly and 53,000 indirectly.

What did we accomplish?

  • People eat better: People are twice as likely to eat meat and eggs as they were before the project, and 3 times more likely to eat vegetables.
  • Kids have birth certificates: 49% more kids in the project have birth certificates than kids who weren’t in the project. That’s 83% more kids who can access services now and later in life since the project started.
  • Parents are less stressed: Parents answered that they were 13% less likely to be stressed if they are in the project than if they weren’t—and 60% less likely to be extremely stressed.
  • Families are healthier: People are 22% more likely to use mosquito nets for their kids than they were before, and 9% more likely to have a hygienic home.
  • Men get more involved at home: According to one man in the project, “Today I feel happy because I have no fear to fetch water from the well…Nowadays, the whole village sees me as normal.”
  • Built trust: One parent told us, “There was no other place to go before,” when discussing who they trusted to help them take care of kids. Now, they refer to other members of the community and project volunteers as the people who help them.

How did we get there?

  • Work with local leaders: The project trained advisors to help young parents, and started with people who were already active in their community—even if they were atypically choices for childcare. Old men who were church elders, traditional healers, and others who are outside of our usual expectations wanted to have outlets to help families.
  • Get men involved: The project focused on getting male champions to not just work with parents, but also get other men to help at home. Advisors timed their visits to they could talk to men and women about childcare.
  • Build from accepted tools: The project used the Essential ECD package that CARE, Save the Children, and the Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development created, and that the government of Mozambique endorsed.
  • Mentor staff and volunteers: The project staff mentored community volunteers and regularly visited them to improve their skills and make sure that things are on track. They provided feedback and support. This helped reach 90% volunteer retention.

Want to learn more?

Check the final project report and the video. You can also read the final evaluation. For the evaluation geeks in the crowd, the qualitative data here is fascinating! They did a really interesting job of promoting reflection.