Isabel Maria Garcia De Almeida

Ashoka Fellow
Bissau, Guinea-Bissau
Fellow Since 1994

Citation

This profile was prepared when Isabel Maria Garcia De Almeida was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1994.
The New Idea
Isabel's work as a nutritionist has shown her first-hand that malnutrition and undernourishment have strongly negative repercussions on national economic and social development. Drawing on her important experience as a nutritionist and as an active member of her community, Isabel is convinced that providing access to basic but crucial information about nutritional health and food resources is fundamental to helping ordinary people understand the importance of a nutritionally balanced diet.Her work over the last decade has shown her that information and counseling are key. Working mainly with women and children in recent years, she observes that, "In my experience, more than 50% of malnutrition cases are surmounted by the mother through counseling."
While her medium-term objective is to provide food and nutrition related education to fellow Bissau-Guineans, Isabel's larger vision is one of a more healthy, informed citizenry, better able to engage actively in community and national development, as well as to participate fully in decision-making at all levels. Thoughts on these issues have been preoccupying Isabel for many years, sometimes even pushing her to rise in the middle of the night to write down her ideas. Now a number of these ideas have been gathered together in an imaginative plan of action to be implemented at her "Nutrition Museum".
At the heart of this innovative idea is the development of a popular, museum-like center for study and education about food and nutrition. This museum would be a new type of research center, through which information on a variety of food-related issues, from the history and anthropology of nutrition to food groups and nutrients readily available in Guinea-Bissau, could be widely and attractively disseminated. The center would also undertake basic analysis of national food policy and agrarian issues, principal factors in the country's socio-economic development. This nutrition center is to be named "Bemba", a local word meaning granary or place where one stores good things.
Determined that the idea be different from other more formal research centers, Isabel is concerned that the "museum" contain "user-friendly" exhibitions and permanent displays, and that it be accessible to passers-by, the general public, and specifically targeted social groups in urban and rural areas of the country. An adjacent horticultural space will be planted with fruit trees and other flora, and developed for experimental and teaching purposes. To further complement the activities, Isabel hopes to use this space to set up a specialized library on food and nutrition matters. This library would also eventually cover broader areas related to sustainable, locally-based projects.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

More For You