This programme targets all population groups, especially the chronically food and nutrition insecure as well as populations vulnerable to and affected by various emergencies and crises. Food and nutrition security focuses on a number of issues including: affordable food prices, steady availability of quality nutritious safe food, knowledge and skills in processing and preservation of diverse foods and stability of sources of income. The best available direct measure of food and nutrition insecurity is an estimate of daily energy intake manifesting in high stunting rates for children and low Body Mass Index for adults. Shortage of nutrients in diets limits growth, weakens immunity, causes illnesses and increases the risk of mortality.
Nutrition is intrinsically multi-sectoral, and strategies to improve nutrition outcomes should seek to purposefully integrate the contribution of relevant disciplines. The Food and Nutrition Security Programme in Zambia is guided by the National Agriculture Policy, the National Food and Nutrition Policy, the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Framework, the National Agriculture Investment Plan and the National Food and Nutrition Strategic Plan.
Nutrition Situation Analysis
Despite its rich agricultural resources, Zambia has continued to experience chronic food and nutrition insecurity. Stunting rates in Zambia stand at 40 percent, with 21 percent being severe. Stunting has remained the most common nutritional disorder affecting children under the age of five. In addition, nearly half of the country’s rural population (45 percent), have daily caloric intakes below 1,750 per day on average (according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) food balance sheet calculation) while their families spend nearly 80 percent of their incomes on food. Calorie consumption ranges from 1,185 in Luapula province and 2,103 in Lusaka compared with an estimated average daily requirement of 2,750 and 2,600 for men and women respectively.
The FAO food balance sheet calculation also indicates that, on average, only two percent of calories consumed by Zambians are from pulses, vegetables, and nuts highlighting the dire need for dietary diversity. Small-scale farming systems are overwhelmingly dominated by a single crop – maize. This presents a nutrition challenge where maize accounts for 57% of daily caloric consumption (FAOstat). Multi-sectoral efforts intended to simultaneously address agriculture and nutrition have often been hindered by institutional barriers and insufficient resources. Moreover, the country has notable gaps in mechanisms to deal with disaster risk management including inadequate and poor functioning weather related insurance; weak information systems (e.g. early warning systems) targeting disaster management, and weak vulnerability assessment institutions.
- By 2015, production, access and consumption of food crops, fish and livestock will have been broadened contributing to improved household food and nutrition security and more diverse diets for the Zambian population especially the most vulnerable groups.
- By 2015, micronutrient deficiencies of iodine, vitamin A, iron and zinc will be reduced to below public health levels among women of reproductive age, pregnant women and children under the age of two years.
Improving multi-stakeholder collaboration
The National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) works in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to incorporate nutrition sensitive messages in the realm of food production, harvesting, processing, and packaging. These messages are targeted at farmers, women groups, agriculture extension officers and other key stakeholders. At provincial and district levels the Nutrition Coordinating Committees led by the NFNC works in a multi-sectorial fashion with keyline ministries to implement their various ministerial activities that are key in promoting nutrition, especially under the first 1000 most critical days programme.
Furthermore, three biofortified crops are being promoted with the help of cooperating partners and other local and international NGOs as an intervention to address micronutrient deficiencies and improve food and nutrition security. These include; maize sweet potatoes and beans.
Promotion of biofortified maize
Production and consumption of orange maize has been spearheaded by HarvestPlus and the Pan African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA). HarvestPlus had been promoting the orange maize under the feed the future programme.
Promotion of biofortified sweet potatoes
The International Potatoes Centre (CIP) has been promoting orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. A project called Integrating Orange project has been promoting production and consumption of Orange Flesh Sweet Potatoes (OFSP) in Eastern and Central Provinces since 2011. It targets about 15 000 households in Eastern and Central provinces of Zambia. The project has embarked on multiplication of high quality vines in these areas, and distribution of the vines to lead farmers and stakeholders. A total of eight OFSP varieties have been released and are being promoted in project target areas.
In addition, field days are held in different areas to demonstrate crop management skills in the field. Communities are taught on how to prepare different food products from OFSP using a variety of recipes. These include confectionaries, chips, snacks and complementary feeding foods for children between the ages of 6-24 months. The NFNC is also in the process of developing complementary food recipes with some recipes of OFSP to be distributed to infant and young child caregivers and community health workers.
Promotion of iron rich beans
The NFNC has been working closely with PABRA and the Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) to multiply the high iron and zinc rich beans. This activity was initiated following the NFNC baseline survey done in Chipata, Eastern Province of Zambia in 2011. This study established low intake of iron rich foods in the local diets though the consumption of beans was very high. As a result, the multiplication and promotion of iron rich beans was initiated to contribute to the access to iron rich food and reduce the high anemia cases among children and women of child bearing age.
So far a total of 11 iron and zinc rich bean varieties have been released in Zambia and some farmers especially in Northern and Eastern Provinces have been producing this bean crop. The NFNC has also been promoting the consumption of the iron rich beans in the country with more emphasis in the areas in Eastern Province were beans are being grown. To this effect, a booklet for preparing beans in variety of ways has been produced to help people access iron rich beans in their diets. Furthermore, smallholder farmers have begun to cultivate iron rich beans, vitamin A biofortified maize and Vitamin A biofortified sweet potatoes. These farmers are benefiting from improved nutrition and increased incomes from selling their produce, which is then used as seed or in school meal programs.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Ministry of Community Development Mother and Child Health, Zambia National Farmers Union, Zambia Agriculture Research Institute, HarvestPlus, Programme Against Malnutrition and Various NGOs and CBO.