NUTRITION is one of the critical aspects that has become a centre of discussion following the various concerns that have arisen, as a result of stuntedness and malnourishment in Zambia.
According to the Zambia Demographic Health Survey of 2013/2014(ZDHS), statistics indicate that presently, Zambia faces a daunting problem of malnutrition, with stunting presently standing at 40 per cent and obesity at 23 per cent.
Various concerns have been raised as to why most programmes have focussed more on their own interventions with less attention to nutrition despite its importance in their activities.
On the other hand, gender also plays a key role in empowering households as empirical evidence suggests that once women are empowered, it results in accelerating agricultural development and also improves nutrition for mothers, their children and their households.
However, with the passage of time, the realisation that nutrition and gender needs to be mainstreamed in various intervention programmes has come out strongly, with government reaffirming its commitment towards such a cause.
It is indeed gratifying that government has taken a leading role more particularly in the agriculture sector.
To this effect, various intervention programmes have come up with strategies to assist farmer groups and households by empowering more households.
Recently, a regional workshop on Nutrition and Gender was organised by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Government to learn and share experiences on how best to operationalize nutrition-sensitive agriculture and rural development.
The workshop dubbed ‘’Nexus of Nutrition-Gender and Agriculture Mainstreaming in IFAD Investment’’was convened in Livingstone.
This event was also meant to bring together a broad range of stakeholders in implementation gender-focused interventions and nutrition sensitive activities in selected IFAD funded projects in East and Southern Africa (ESA) region.
Some of the programmes present were the Smallholder Agribusiness Promotion Programme (SAPP), Enhanced Smallholder Livestock Investment Programme (E-SLIP), Smallholder Productivity Promotion Programme (S3P), and various partners convened to charter the wayforward and share experiences as well as come up with feasible strategies to address nutrition and gender in their various intervention programmes.
The workshop was premised on the fact that gender and nutrition have seen growing attention on the agricultural agenda although statistics indicate that one in eight women and men go hungry daily and 8,000 children die daily from under nutrition.
Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Julius Shawa says government has adopted a multisectoral approach in promoting good nutrition through enhancing linkage between gender and nutrition in order to empower farmers and households.
Mr Shawa said government and IFAD have been promoting programmes and harmonised the participation of women and youths as part of empowering them in a bid to boost production.
He also reiterated that all intervention programmes needed increased investment by not only government and IFAD but by all stakeholders in order to complement their efforts of empowering farmers and households.
And IFAD Representative and Country Director Abla Benhammouche said IFAD was supporting women and youths through the various intervention programmes, as such IFAD was working collaboratively with various partners and government in raising awareness on nutrition and gender, which was one of the development agendas.
With these sentiments echoed thus far, government has also shown willingness in addressing nutrition through revising the Nutrition Act.
Government recently proposed to amend the current National Food and Nutrition Commission Act No.308 of 1967, which is outdated in its current form by tabling a bill in parliament.
In hindsight, the revision of the Act is a glimmer of hope, as it will strengthen and facilitate the implementation of government policy on Food and Nutrition. Coupled with that, this is also an indication of the strides government is making in addressing various concerns pertaining to nutrition, which is a step in the right direction.
Consultant on Nutrition and Gender Musonda Mofu explains that nutrition education needs to be enforced in farmer communities and households in order to ensure they utilise their income in boosting their nutrition status.
Mr Mofu pointed out that cultural practices have also contributed to increased malnutrition while on the other hand, more women are empowered noting that, men are not taking a leading role in supporting women adequately in their various activities that are aimed at addressing nutrition, a trend he describes as uninspiring for their households.
SAPP Programme Manager Kwibisa Liywalii points out that despite the programme not having a specific objective that directly deals with nutrition, since the programme intervention focusses on linkage to potential markets and developing business acumen among the targeted households, the programme recognises the fact that most production is done by women and therefore, income generated from the sale of produce can partially be channelled to addressing nutrition, which most households were practising. In essence, this aligns itself in fulfilling the programme interventions and goal of increased income and improved food security among its targeted 30,000 households.
And S3P Programme Manager Martin Liywalii is of the view that, though the programme is addressing productivity, most production is centred around women and therefore, both gender and also nutrition is addressed as farmers process their produce.
Muchinga Province Principal Agriculture Officer Fred Chikuta says there are some women households working with various IFAD supported programmes in the province, that have acquired grants to supplement and boost their agricultural enterprises.
Mr Chikuta further says most of the farmers are being encouraged to engage in processing various nutritious foods through preservation instead of selling all their produce, as a way of improving and boosting their nutrition levels at household level.
Country Coordinator for Zambia Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (CSO) William Chilufya is of the view that, there is need to raise awareness on nutrition and gender sensitivity in various agriculture intervention programmes, noting that the agriculture system is key in stepping up advocacy, as it provides a basis to work on policy gaps in terms of nutrition and gender as well.
Mr Chilufya explained that it was encouraging that government through the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) had introduced the e-voucher that is non-restrictive to farmers and will empower more households as they can access nutritious packages such as soyabeans and other nutritious foods.
UN Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Janet Rogan points out that bilateral organisations prefer to support strategic and focussed interventions that will assist in scaling up appropriate nutrition and gender, than multiple approaches that do not yield any positive results.
It is clear that to improve and achieve high nutrition and gender levels, strategic and focussed actions need to be devised in order to attain tangible results. Further, there must also be a realisation that development needs to be inculcated in peoples’ minds as appropriate approaches are devised.
Therefore, various programmes and partners need to adopt a holistic approach that deals with nutrition and gender, irrespective of their domain of intervention with regards farmer communities and households they work with in order to maximise resources and also make an impact that is well targeted and meaningful.-NAIS