Tirfenash Abraha’s day starts with the rising of the sun at 6am. Her 1 year and 8 months old baby is still sleeping. By the time she starts with the housework, Aaron is awake. While Tirfenash cleans and starts preparing the food for the family, he happily presses the different buttons on her mobile phone. Her sub-district (kebele) Hatsebo is well connected. The health extension workers in her district (woreda) handed out emergency phone numbers. During her pregnancy she would call them and help would arrive promptly from the nearest health post if needed. “I also buy the packages of complementary food from the health post whenever I am busy and I don’t have the time to prepare it at home,” she says.

The basic three grains needed to prepare complementary food are teff, broad bean and wheat. Tirfenash likes to add further grains and pulses like chickpea, lentils and barley. She knows, the more nutrients for Aaron the better. “Some mothers don’t mix the right ratio. The porridge will get very thin and the children will not get all the nutrients. Sometimes they will also make too much and then the children don’t get the fresh porridge,” she explains. On her own farmland, she grows wheat and teff, which she mainly uses for household consumption. She does not sell it at the market but sometimes trades a few kilograms of wheat for the same amount of complementary food.


As a member of the Health Development Army as well as the leader of her one-to-five network, she realised early the benefits of the nutritious mixture and tries to add milk, eggs or oil whenever she can. Due to the team’s promotional efforts, almost all mothers switched to either purchasing or making their own complementary food at home. It is lunchtime and Tirfenash’s second half of the day starts. She leaves the house, which is fenced by stonewalls and large cactuses. On average she spends eight hours in the fields, weeding and harvesting depending on the season. Most of the time, Aaron is strapped to her back keeping an eye on his mother.

“I can’t manage the land on my own. I would like to be able to hire daily labour more often to not depend on my relatives,” she says with a thin voice. The whereabouts of her husband are unclear. She has to take care of everything herself and started weaving wicker baskets to make ends meet. Support comes in the form of the development agents, employed by the government who help her to increase her productivity. “During the summer season from June until August, they would come every day to teach me row planting or show me to use the right amount of fertilizer,” she says. The sun is about to set when Tirfenash makes her way home. Little Aaron is happily snoozing on her back, resting before it is time again for porridge.