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On International Women’s Day, we are proud to announce that Helen Keller International’s Women-Centered Homestead Food Production Program in Cambodia has been selected to receive a prestigious Grand Challenges grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Foundation announced 19 new awards totaling more than $24 million to support innovative approaches to improve the lives and well-being of women and girls worldwide. 

The new grantees for the Grand Challenges: Putting Women and Girls at the Center of Development were selected from 1,742 letters of interest from 128 countries and represent primarily female-led projects from Bangladesh, Burundi, Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland, and Uganda.

“We’re very honored to win this award,” said HKI-Cambodia Deputy Country Director Hou Kroeun. “HKI’s Enhanced Homestead Food Production model has been shown to be effective in improving the food security and nutritional status of poor rural households in Cambodia with limited access to land. This grant will enable us to test the additional impact of using a women-centered approach to project implementation in targeted communities, and provide evidence to inform policies and strategies in Cambodia and beyond.”

HKI Cambodia’s Homestead Food Production model: an innovative women-centered model

For more than 15 years, HKI Cambodia has implemented an innovative women-centered model that improves the nutrition and food security of vulnerable households by empowering and enabling women to exert more influence over household food production (for example, crop selection and harvest timing), use of household income, and to influence nutrition and hygiene behaviors in the household.

Recognizing that women are key decision makers in the household and thus have a central role in improving nutritional status for women and children, the HKI Homestead Food Production model works with women in small landholder households to increase production and availability of food, and improve nutrition practices. By also integrating activities that address gender inequity in decision-making over household resources and food distribution, the model aims to spark to an increase in women’s participation in decision-making within households.

The model organizes women-represented households into small groups, with each including one Village Model Farm and between ten to fifteen other household farms. The Village Model Farm serves as a focal point for training and demonstrations on horticulture, small animal husbandry and aquaculture techniques, and provides technical support to the other households. The program also develops local sources of necessary agriculture inputs including seeds and poultry chicks, provides training on how to produce and market seeds and chicks to local households and how to market excess produce in local markets. Training on improved nutrition and water and sanitation practices is also a key component to the program and integrates HKI’s signature gender transformative approach called Nurturing Connections as well, in which conversation-based sessions on gender discrimination are held with peer groups of women, their husbands and their in-laws.

The Gates Challenge Award will be used to assess HKI’s women-centered approach in order to inform national policies and strategies.

The proposed study will test the impact of the EHFP model, with and without a women-centered approach, on food security, nutrition practices and gender empowerment outcomes for households in rural Cambodia.

Women’s and girls’ empowerment is at the core of our work.  You can read more about the awards here