Zim holds biofortification policy dialogue Professor Obert Jiri

Edgar Vhera  Agriculture Specialist Writer

GOVERNMENT and development partners recently held a national biofortification policy dialogue (NBPD) in Harare to accelerate its adoption en route to achieving food and nutrition security plus Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) of ending hunger.

Partners who worked with the Government to host the event include Smallholder Irrigation Revitalisation Programme (SIRP), Harvest Plus and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). It was running under the theme “Towards scaling biofortification adoption in Zimbabwe for food and nutrition security.”

SIRP project coordinator Mr Walter Makotore said biofortification was not only pivotal in addressing the challenge of micro-nutrient deficiencies but in achieving food security for the nation.

“The objectives of this dialogue are multipronged – adoption of strategies to scale up the production, consumption and value addition of biofortified crops in Zimbabwe, as well as assess what is currently available on the market and getting farmers’ testimonies.

“The Government, private sector and development partners’ nexus is important, for instance, for genetic material you need research institutions, extension departments within Government while promoting widespread use involves private sector/development partners and Government,” he said.

Mr Makotore said recommendations from the deliberations would inform strategies for scaling adoption and sustainable production of biofortified crops.

In an African Union report for 2020 titled: “Upscaling Biofortification in Africa: A roadmap” biofortification was defined as the process of breeding food crops that are rich in bioavailable micronutrients, such as vitamin A, zinc, and iron.

In a speech read on his behalf by Strategic Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation director, Mr Abraham Mashumba, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary, Professor Obert Jiri said the policy dialogue was important for the agriculture sector and was pivotal in the health and well-being of the country’s citizens.

“Biofortification in agriculture has a profound impact on nutrition. By harnessing this potential of science and technology, we have the ability to address not only the quantity but also the quality of the food we produce and consume,” he said.

Prof Jiri said food and nutrition security was a key deliverable for the agriculture sector under the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) and as such, it was important to ensure that all the food that required and consumed by the populace is sufficient in quantity, safe and nutritious.

He admitted that consumption of biofortified foods was still very low at national level with only five percent of the sampled households consuming orange/vitamin A maize, 7, 4 percent consuming NUA45 beans and only six percent consuming orange fleshed sweet potato.

These statistics clearly indicate that there is need for more efforts in promoting biofortified crops as country committed to upscaling the production and consumption of these nutrient rich crops identified in the United Nations Food Systems Pathways document.

Micronutrient deficiency is particularly prevalent among people who rely on non-diverse, staple food crop diets, which are rich in carbohydrates but deficient in vitamins and minerals. This is the case in Zimbabwe where staple food crops constitute the bulk of the diet, but which food is deficient in essential vitamins and minerals.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations Food Balance Sheets (FAOFBS) suggests that the typical diet in Zimbabwe was deeply deficient in vitamins and minerals required for health, development, and resilience. The average intakes of iron, zinc, folate, vitamin B12 and vitamin A range only 27 to 64 percent of World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended nutrition intakes (RNI) for children and women.

Prof Jiri said the Government and its partners recognised that addressing this widespread burden of micronutrient malnutrition required a comprehensive approach including both targeted interventions to reach the most vulnerable as well as population-wide approaches to address the broad scale of the micronutrient threat.

“The Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) released a national food fortification strategy that promoted supplementation and industrial fortification.

“This was implemented through the MOHCC and other development partners through nutrition education emphasising consumption of a diverse diet and increasing intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables,” he added.

In 2022, the Government of Zimbabwe released a new five-year fortification strategy that strengthens biofortification. The policy affirms the realisation that for food and nutrition security, the nutrition sensitive value chain must start from production.

 

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