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'Integration is a gift': How FHI 360 fought undernutrition and poverty in Uganda

December 03, 2021

As FHI 360 marks its 50th anniversary, explore our history of solutions and future of possibilities.

At FHI 360, we believe that making positive change requires integrated solutions. That’s why our projects often take a multisectoral approach that taps into our varied areas of expertise.

In Uganda, and around the world, poverty and undernutrition are complex issues. Through the USAID/Uganda Community Connector Project, a Feed the Future flagship program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, FHI 360 took an integrated approach to addressing undernutrition. The project, which ran from 2011 to 2016, worked with nearly 100,000 vulnerable households, comprising more than 539,000 people, in 15 districts in Uganda to improve the nutritional status of women and children and to sustainably strengthen agricultural livelihoods.

The Feed the Future initiative takes an integrated, multidisciplinary approach to poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. This project was centered on community-based savings groups, through which members set aside money and developed plans to invest in productive assets for their families, such as farm-related investments or school fees. Members learned to grow produce, such as avocados, papayas and onions, and studied agricultural and business practices. They also attended “family life schools,” which had an integrated curriculum with topics related to health; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); nutrition; agricultural productivity; savings and gender.

“At FHI 360, we know that the world’s challenges aren’t simple or straightforward,” said Deborah Kennedy, chief operations officer at FHI 360. “That’s why we create solutions with a 360-degree approach — using thoughtful, expert, integrated responses to drive real and lasting change.”

Community Connector helped to pioneer a collaborative learning/adaptation approach, featuring learning and implementation periods, open dialogues about challenges, and time to make improvements. This offered the community and other stakeholders the opportunity to participate in the project’s design.

For example, community members emphasized that they were most interested in addressing a lack of economic opportunities. So the project initially used savings groups and business trainings to connect with community members, followed by activities related to food security and nutrition.

Once households were on the path to economic security, they felt better equipped to tackle other goals, such as those related to agriculture, nutrition, health and gender. In turn, when households were able to provide nutritious food and access preventive health care, they could financially invest in long-term activities, such as education and productive assets, that helped them build a more stable economic future.

Program participants felt the benefits of this integrated approach. “If I am feeling well, generating income, having animals … how can you not be happy?” one savings group member from northern Uganda said. “Integration is a gift.”