By EUNICE MBEWE
ZAMBIA still remains one of the countries with the highest malnutrition rates in the world. This is attributed to the low intake of nutritious foods and high disease burden, exacerbated by poor feeding practices, limited access to health services and poor sanitation as the major contributors of malnutrition.
However, Zambia is committed to end malnutrition as evidenced in its Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) 2017 to 2021 and the 1,000 Most Critical Days Programme (MCDP) which aims at reducing stunting in children less than two years old by 25 percent by 2022.
Inadequate food diversity is one of the main causes of stunting in Zambia. As such smallholder farmers have embraced legume production to address the challenge.
Nutrition, according to the World Health Organization is the intake of food, considered in relation to the body’s dietary needs. Poor nutrition can lead to reduced immunity thereby increasing susceptibility to disease and reduced productivity.
Food and nutrition security focuses on a number of issues including: steady availability of quality nutritious safe food, knowledge and skills in processing and preservation of diverse foods and stability of sources of income.
Agricultural Camp Extension Officer for Manungu A in Monze, Constance Hamuleba Banda said farmers have now started producing and consuming nutritious foods, this comes after trainings conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) on the importance of growing and consuming nutritious food.
Ms Banda has observed that the nutritional levels have greatly improved among the smallholder farmers in her district.
She revealed that they have also educated their farmers on the importance of preparing health meals.
“We have explained to our farmers that a balance diet starts from the field, a farmer should be able to grow variety crops to meet the nutritional needs,” Ms Banda said.
She further revealed that farmers are also trained on value addition in order to increase their incomes. The farmers who are growing groundnuts, cowpeas soybeans, sorghum and sunflower. The farmers are also adding value to their sunflower as they are processing it to make cooking oil. They also use sunflower cakes to feed their poultry and livestock.
Ms Banda revealed that about 68 farmers have produced four tonnes of sunflower which will not be sold as raw but processed to make cooking oil.
The women and girls are further trained and undertake cooking demonstrations with a focus to prepare healthy and nutritious foods for infants and young children.
One of the interventions in food preservation that WFP is using is the lead-follower farmer method where the lead farmers who were trained and given solar dryers. The follower farmers are then invited to learn about different food processing and preservation at the lead farmer’s home where the solar dry is kept.
Lead farmer, Theresa Watimba from Mumbwa district, narrated that after receiving the solar dryers from WFP the farmers are able to dry different vegetables such as okra, pumpkin leaves and local traditional vegetables. The dryers are used so that the vegetables are not over dried in order not to destroy some nutrients.
Previously, they used to dry vegetables on the open air allowing dust and other insects but after receiving the dryers which they use and cover their crops.
A member of Nakanjoli adolescent club which is based in Mumbwa, Franciscah Hambulo explained ever since she joined the club, she has benefited from teachings on nutrition education.
Before undergoing the trainings on the preparation of health foods for infants, Ms Hambulo used to over feed her baby with the same type of food starting from breakfast, lunch and supper, as long as the baby has something to eat but now she has learned that a baby needs different types of foods that includes cereals, legumes, starchy and vegetables.
She has now learned the advantages of preparing health foods for infants such as the baby porridge with pounded groundnuts and vegetables so that her baby has all the nutrients required in her body starting from vegetables, legumes and starchy.
Ms Hambulo has seen significant improvement among her peers with children who are enrolled under the programme, previously many children in her community were malnourished because of lack of proper health foods due to ignorance.
WFP promotes nutrition-sensitive value chains with the aim to increase the production and consumption of nutritious food thereby contributing to the achievement of zero hunger in Zambia. -NAIS