By Owami Sithole
The Government is supporting the scaling up of the fight against hidden hunger by promoting bio-fortified crops, a promising, cost-effective and sustainable technique of delivering micronutrients to a population that has limited access to diverse diets and other micronutrient interventions.
Agriculture is one of the sustainable key sectors towards achieving the nation‘s new development agenda and efforts towards attaining President Emerson Mnangagwa’s vision of turning the country into a middle income economy by 2030.
This was said by Ambassador Mary Mubi, a Director in the Office of the President and Cabinet during a Biofortified leaning programme on promoting bio-fortified crops as a nutrition sensitive agriculture intervention.
“The government is seriously committed to supporting the production and consumption of high nutrient crops in feeding the nation in order to achieve integrated goals of poverty reduction, national food security and broad-based economic growth,” said Ambassador Mubi.
She went on to say that the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe has long been criticised for its preoccupation with feeding the nation. The government is directing its efforts towards ensuring that people will have key micronutrients to enable everyone to reach growth and development.
“We have a population which continues to grow in size but their bodies lack key elements to enable them to reach their full growth and reproductive potential. A large section of our population is often sick, tired and less productive. Over 26, 2% (an unacceptable figure of our children) are stunted and they are not able to fully perform well in school. The adults are unable to contribute meaningfully to programmes that enhance their livelihoods, community and national development program. Therefore as a government, we have made deliberate effort in endorsing the bio-fortification programme that seeks to improve livelihoods, nutritional food security, poverty reduction and increased agricultural productivity,” she said.
She said by improving human capital through nutritional diet diversity, it will make the country reach the vision of a high middle income by 2030, and it is the duty of every citizen to fully participate in building the economy through collective efforts and positive mind towards development.
“Bio-fortification has great potential to contribute towards ratification of micronutrient deficiencies, mainly because it targets crops that are consumed by the majority of the population especially, including living in marginalised rural communities who rely most on what they produce.”
Famers were also encouraged to make use of the natural bio-diversity which is rich and indulged in many different plant species that provide essential nutrient to the diet.
“It is also important to consider our indigenous crops. Let us not regard them as orphan crops. They are climate smart but have been long neglected. They provide diversity in our diet. In future, I hope such crops will be added on bio-fortification crop variety as they are important to nutritional value. Farmers need to embrace sustainable agricultural production methodology which preserves our soil, water resource and natural environment in the country,” Ambassador Mubi added.
Ambassador Mubi extolled the Livelihoods and Food Security program in working closely with private sector and government departments in line with national priorities by actively addressing constraints that smallholder farmers face so as to build resilience, increase agricultural productivity, increase incomes, improve food, nutrition security, and reduce poverty and participate in markets.
“I also want to thank the Food and Agriculture Organisation and strategic partner HarvestPlus for tremendous support in transforming the agricultural landscape in Zimbabwe. Measure are being put in place to support the agricultural sector, taking into action the issue of value chain system. It is a goal of government to create an open and market-orientated economy that would allow for the improvement of grain markets through strategic incentives and market-enabling institutions, and sustained productivity for agricultural growth.”
The Head of the Department for International Development (DfID) in Zimbabwe Ms Annabel Gerry lauded the support from the Zimbabwean government in building resilience in the agriculture sector.
“We have been working in Zimbabwe for about 6 to 7 years. We started looking at rural finance but we later realised it was not about finance. The low rainfall experienced because of climate change has resulted in low agricultural productivity. We came to realise that it was high time we invest in crops which are climate smart: the orange maize with vitamin A, and the iron beans with iron and zinc,” said Ms Gerry.
“Zimbabwe has potential of coming up with high agricultural productivity by moving from small scale to commercial for high value exports and also creating nutritional food security in the country through bio-fortified crops,” Ms Gerry said.
DFID has done a lot of initiatives in terms of market linkages and came up with successful stories regardless of the economic constrains.
“We have been working with small scale famers who have been doing well through growing chilies for commercial purposes exporting.They are selling to food companies like Nandos. We have proved it is possible for smallholder farmer to do high value export, and also we are happy working together providing technical support to the government towards the agricultural policy framework to enable productive agriculture market,” she said.