7 August, 2019
The Zimbabwe Livelihood and Food Security Programme (LFSP) is promoting production and consumption of biofortified crop varieties, namely Vitamin A orange Maize (VAM) and High Iron and zinc Bean varieties. These were locally developed through conventional crop breeding processes by Crop Breeding Institute (CBI) of the Department of Research and Specialist Services (DR&SS) in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and CIAT.
The LFSP is a multi-year programme funded by UK aid, and managed by FAO and Palladium. It aims to reduce poverty through increased incomes for communities in 12 target districts by addressing constraints to productivity, market participation, access to finance and the supply and demand of nutritious foods including biofortfication.
In 2016, VAM and High Iron and zinc Beans were launched through the LFSP. This marked the country’s first step to full scale production, distribution and consumption of biofortified crops. This was done through partnerships with the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement (MoLAWCRR), Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), HarvestPlus and a consortia of non-governmental organisations lead by Welthungerhilfe, Practical Action, and World Vision. It was also informed by experiences from other African countries such as Zambia, Rwanda, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria.
Biofortification is the process of breeding food crops that are rich in micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron and zinc. These crops “biofortify” themselves by loading higher levels of minerals and vitamins in their seeds and roots while they are growing. When eaten, they provide essential micronutrients to improve nutrition and public health. This provides a comparatively cost effective, and sustainable means of delivering more micronutrients. It contributes to lowering the number of people with micronutrient deficiencies (hidden hunger), who may require treatment by complementary interventions. This helps them maintain improved nutritional status.
According to the World Health Organization, stunting beyond the age of two years can result in poor cognitive and educational outcomes in later childhood and adolescence, and has significant educational and economic consequences at the individual, household and community levels. Currently in Zimbabwe, 26.2% of children under the age of five years are stunted, 19% are vitamin A deficient, 72% have iron deficiency anaemia and 31% are anaemic. Similarly 23% of women of child bearing age (15-49years) are vitamin A deficient, 61% have iron deficiency anaemia and 26% are anaemic.
Under the LFSP, significant progress has been made in promoting the production, marketing and consumption of VAM (also known as Orange maize) and High Iron Beans. The programme has facilitated collaboration among various sectors and key maize and bean value chain actors, including government, seed companies, food processors, and agro-dealers, resulting in availability of VAM and iron bean seed, grain and processed products on the local market. It has reached over 200,000 farmers directly and close to a million people indirectly.
To date, some of the success which have been achieved are:
- Inclusion of biofortification in national policy including Food and Nutrition Strategy, Food Fortification Strategy, National Agricultural Policy Framework (2019 -2030).
- Four maize and one bean varieties have been produced in partnership with the Crop Breeding Institute. Eight seed companies are currently producing and marketing the seed.
- Inclusion of Vitamin A maize in the commodities procured by the Grain Marketing Board.
- 259MT of vitamin A maize seed and 400MT of iron bean seed distributed in the country through direct and indirect distribution methods.
- More than 200,000 farmers in the programme’s 12 operational districts now grow and consume biofortified crops.
- The LFSP supported 235 primary and 26 secondary schools with seed packs for the production of biofortified crops for use in providing nutritious hot meals for more than 135,000 pupils (50% girls) in the program’s operational districts.
- Two national level food processors now produce and market grits, maize meal, porridge meal, samp, tinned samp & bean mix, tinned iron beans and iron bean dry packs from vitamin A maize and iron beans.
However there is still need to ensure wider production and consumption of high nutrient crop varieties. Specifically,
- Support of seed companies with foundation seed is key to encouraging their investment into biofortified crops, as it reduces the risk they have to bear in investing in the new products
- Assess how biofortified crop cultivation and consumption are expanding organically for improved seed planning, outreach strategies and market linkages.
- Identify models that are cost effective and achieve consumption of biofortified foods at scale
CONTACT US: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Block 1, Tendeseka Office Park, Cnr. Samora Machel Ave & Renfrew Rd, Eastlea, Harare; Phone: +263-242-252021-3; E-mail:FAO-ZW@fao.org; Website: www.lfspzim.com; Twitter: @LFSPZim; Facebook: LFSPZimbabwe; LinkedIn: LFSPZimbabwe