By Meluse Kapatamoyo
The Zambia Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition (CSO-SUN) has called on government to reform existing agricultural plans to increase their impact on nutrition by encouraging diversity in food production, aimed at improving the nutritional outcome of the population through maximizing the positive impact of food and agricultural systems on nutrition.
CSO-SUN country coordinator, William Chilufya said the high levels of malnutrition in Zambia create an urgent call to ensure that investment in agriculture becomes a core part of the solution and preventive strategy by ensuring food is affordable and diverse.
He said that although Zambia has over the past years achieved food security with its staple cereal, achieving food and nutrition security as recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other international agencies, still remains a challenge to the government.
“A number of factors have resulted in a serious deterioration of food and nutritional security in recent years. In rural areas food insecurity is due to low productivity, limited access to agricultural services and resources, and over-emphasized production of hybrid maize at the expense of traditional crops. The excessive focus on incentives to produce Maize dissuades farmers from diversifying their cropping patterns. The lack of investment in the promotion of other sectors other than maize has resulted in limited crop diversification,” added Chilufya.
Among other things, the Zambian government has committed itself to reducing chronic undernutrition by 50 percent in the next 10 years, resolve the human resource and financial gaps in the 5 key line Ministries which includes Agriculture and Livestock.
Further, government will aim to increase nutrition budget lines by at least 20 percent annually for the next 10 years and also progressively encourage the involvement of the private sector to enable access to affordable and appropriate nutritious foods to mothers, children and other vulnerable groups.
“When we think of food production, ecosystem, health and human wellbeing, one crucial element is often not mentioned: nutrition. Nutrition is everyone’s business and no one’s responsibility, as the saying goes. But we know that one of the world’s greatest challenges is to secure adequate food that is healthy, safe and of high quality for all, and to do so in an environmentally sustainable manner,” said Chilufya.
Malnutrition is one of the greatest challenges facing Zambia today. Nearly one in every two children is stunted or small for their age. The country has one of the highest rates of stunting in children under five years old in the world. At 45.8 percent, higher than the 42 percent average rate for Africa, Zambia’s rate of child stunting remains higher than the vast majority of its neighbouring countries. PYM