Reform existing programmes to increase their effect on nutrition: A Key Ask from Zambia CSO-SUN Alliance to the Government
One of the key areas of focus for the Alliance of Civil Society Organisations for Scaling Up Nutrition (CSO-SUN) in Zambia has been around reforming the existing programmes in the agriculture sector to increase their effect on nutrition. To increase uptake of reformed programmes, we are helping to raise and create demand for improved nutrition among the Zambia population, who still focus on food – primarily maize - and not food and nutrition security.
In addressing the malnutrition crisis, it is important to realize the emphasis placed on the various sources of nutrients in the Zambian diet. The role of maize in the promotion of optimal health for the Zambian population is an area of contention. The “agriculture policy” in relation to the “maize debate” in Zambia has been pursued without due consideration to nutrition and development. While the debate focuses on removal of the subsidy to correct market forces, limited attention has been paid to the negative consequences of high maize consumption (75% of calorie intake).
In Zambia, there is a heavy reliance on staple consumption with vegetables at the expense of protein and fat intake. Vegetable protein is not easily utilized by the body (due to limited bioavailability) and as such, the quality of amino acids cannot be relied on to provide the required protein needs. Within the Zambian context, children receive bulk diets deficient of the necessary amino acids (animal protein) for them to achieve the required nutrient balance for optimal health. Due to imbalanced intake, body processes are starved of the required elements, essential for growth and development.
To reduce malnutrition rates (and in particular stunting), the CSO-SUN has been advocating for a deliberate policy that supports diversification of the agriculture. The Alliance specifically has been advocating for policy that provides incentives for livestock production to allow for promoting increased per capita animal protein intake in Zambia.
Further, we have been advocating for the reformation of the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) and the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) so that they impact more positively on nutrition. The current maize policy is actually detrimental to nutrition, and the need to promote and support a diversified diet for Zambians.
Going forward, the CSO-SUN will work together with partners and has already planned a forum to popularise direct and indirect nutrition sensitive interventions among farmer groups.