Zimbabwe: Reversing Malnutrition Through Food Security

By Marie-Therese Nanlong, Jos

Human capital development is linked with nutrition, resilience and empowerment. The African Union recognized the nexus among food security, nutrition and human development as it sets frameworks for member countries to achieve food security.

People are food secure when they have physical, social, economic access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for a healthy life.

The World Bank’s global malnutrition report (2021) noted that “malnutrition is one of the world’s most serious but least-addressed development challenges,” and “The economic costs of malnutrition on humans and economy are enormous, falling hardest on the poor, women, and children…”

AU Interventions:

To ensure food security and nourished citizens, the body has the Agriculture and Food Security Division to coordinate the implementation of AU decisions related to agricultural transformation in Africa.

Its Agenda, 2063, framework under its Aspiration 1 – A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development sets targets for reducing poverty and malnutrition, increasing productivity and farm incomes, improving the sustainability of agricultural production and use of natural resources.

Some of the goals of the Aspiration 1 are to among other things, to have healthy and well-nourished citizens expanding access to quality health care services, particularly for women and girls; ensure modern agriculture for increased proactivity and production radically transforming African agriculture to enable the continent to feed itself and be a major player as a net food exporter.

Other frameworks like the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), sets targets for reducing poverty and malnutrition, for increasing productivity and farm incomes, and for improvements in the sustainability of agricultural production and use of natural resources.

In 2014, the AU adopted the Malabo Declaration as a strategy to address food security and nutrition and endorsed the AU Nutrition Champion. In 2016, it adopted the revised AU Strategy (2016 -2025); and endorsed the Africa Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) Initiative in 2018; as well as launched the Continental Nutrition Accountability Scorecard in 2019.

It endorsed 2022 as the Year of Nutrition “Strengthening resilience in nutrition and food security on the African continent: Strengthening agro-food systems, health and social protection systems for the acceleration of human, social and economic capital development”.

This provides an opportunity to advocate for nutrition investments, especially focusing on the humanitarian challenges affecting the continent to ensure no population is left behind in the efforts to achieve nutrition goals and targets.

The Situation

However, despite efforts, member-states still grapple with food shortage and malnutrition especially among women and children, one of them being Zimbabwe where droughts, poverty, and insecurity worsened the cases of food shortage.

A 2022 UNICEF report in Zimbabwe, projected “an estimated 2.6 million people, including 1.9 million children,” were “in urgent need of humanitarian assistance due to multiple hazards, including residual impacts of floods, drought, and food and nutrition security crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis.”

The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee report of 2021 indicates that “citizens continue to struggle to put food on the table; more actions are needed to reverse the trend as inadequate diets can compromise the quality of life and economy of the country.”

Citizen Anatsa Ariko agreed with the report saying, “We had the food and nutrition security policy which was to help us have sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food, newer policies were also introduced but we still have challenge of food security. The land reform in my mind has not been fully utilized to give Zimbabweans food; all stakeholders should do more to make sure no citizen goes to bed hungry; the solution lies in technology-driven agriculture.”

The AU Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs, and Social Development, H.E. Ambassador Minata Cessouma, reiterated the importance of member-states continuing with the implementation of the nutrition road map saying, “If we are not together, we cannot resolve malnutrition, we will still have stunted children on the continent.”

The Chairperson of the AU Commission, H.E. Moussa Mahamat also stated, “Nutrition and food security is everyone’s business. If we all joined forces under strong government leadership, with multi sectoral actions, we will be able to respond to nutrition challenges the continent is facing.”

Importance of food security

Bernard, a local farmer says food security in Zimbabwe means “job and trade opportunities, improved health, economic growth and these can be achieved if farmers are assisted more to translate land into wealth by farming both for food and profit.”

He believes that despite sanctions which have stifle economic relations with some western countries, Zimbabwe could be still be food secured if home-grown solutions are applied, climate-related issues tackled, large-scale irrigation farming encouraged to check crop failure, and farmers have access to loan facilities to strengthen agricultural activities.

Recall that the Chairperson of the AU Commission and officials in Zimbabwe have repeatedly highlighted the negative impacts of sanctions and demanded “the immediate and unconditional lifting of sanctions imposed against institutions and individuals of the Republic of Zimbabwe.”

Government’s efforts on food security:

The country’s Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Vangelis Haritatos acknowledged the menace of food scarcity in Zimbabwe and the efforts at addressing it saying, “Climate change is real and affecting what we are doing. The geopolitical issues are also negatively affecting our food security as a nation, but we are mitigating their effects.

“Our mitigation processes are irrigation development, bringing in seeds that are climate-smart; our Pfumvudza programmes (a crop production intensification approach to ensure food security at the farm level using a small piece of land) have revolutionized agriculture, bringing in a lot of efficiencies and productivity.

“The extension programme is also important, there is the timeous release of inputs to our people, and timeous harvesting. We have the AFC leasing company that is offering a lot of services to ensure that our farmers plant on time and harvest on time, and right now, we are working with the private sector to ensure that even the issue of purchases of grains are done well. We believe that we are on course now.

“We adopted Vision 2030 about uplifting the livelihood of every Zimbabwean, leaving no one behind. Our aim is that by 2025, we will have eradicated poverty and hunger in Zimbabwe, and ensured that our people are self-sufficient and that we are food secured as a nation.

“That can only come with all stakeholders’ approaches; so we call on the private sector, the donor partners that are also on board, as well as the government and most importantly the people, because it is the farmers themselves that can end hunger to do their bit.”

Recently, the Herald newspaper of Zimbabwe reported that the country’s Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development, Dr. Anxious Masuka was the best performing Minister at a Performance Evaluation Results ceremony due to the innovations in agriculture.

His Permanent Secretary, Dr. John Basera was the best performing Permanent Secretary at the event presided over by the country’s President Mr. Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare because, “The Ministry implemented the agriculture and food system transformation strategy which is set to propel the country’s food production levels through increased productivity and maximum land utilization.”

The medium says “The strategy was to achieve a USD8.2bn agricultural economy by 2025 but the target was achieved in 2021 as the industry grew by 36.2%. The target was to reverse the negative trends of food production in the country experienced since the land reform programme,” as “the development of the country’s agriculture sector is key to reducing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.

“The country achieved a milestone in wheat production by attaining a record-breaking 375,000 tonnes of the cereal, the highest ever recorded since wheat growing started in 1966.The Ministry also operationalized the Agricultural Recovery Growth Plan and harvested 2.7 million tonnes of maize during the 2020-2021 cropping season. This season, the Ministry has initiated public-private sector engagements to ensure its projections of a harvest of about three million tonnes of maize…

“Soya bean growing rose from 52,000ha to 56,000ha, a move that will also ensure Zimbabwe has reasonable quantities of raw materials for the production of cooking oil, thereby reducing the import bill…The Ministry also spearheads government programmes such as the Pfumvudza/Intwasa, the National Enhanced Agriculture Productivity Scheme, NEAPS, the Agriculture and Rural Development Authority, ARDA and interventions by the private sector to enhance the production of all crops, which ensures greater food production, oil seed, and tobacco production.”

Reversing malnutrition:

A nutritionist, Rumbidzai Williamadvocated “Extensive education programmes to promote awareness at a household level; awareness campaigns to ensure that people understand what nutrition and food security mean; women empowerment to support resilience and ensure that the goal of nutrition is attained starting from the household level.

“Funding of nutrition-related activities; collaboration with relevant stakeholders to promote nutrition; effective policies to promote food security and nutrition; syllabus with modules for school children so that they can make the best food choices and intake of balanced meal and clean water to nourish the body.”

School feeding programme is adopted to give school children nutritionally balanced meals at school. Functional health clubs have also been established at schools to create awareness and give orientation about malnutrition.

The Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme helped in mobilizing resources to enable smallholder farmers to invest in farm enterprises and enhanced the capacity of farmers to gain access to rural finance, markets and address malnutrition through the adoption of nutrition-sensitive agricultural practices and improve their resilience to a changing climate.

Zimbabwe has also embraced the food-based approach to agricultural development that puts nutritionally rich foods, dietary diversity, food fortification, and biofortification at the heart of overcoming malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, and aims to make the national food system better equipped to produce good nutritional outcomes.

This article was developed with support from the African Union through the African Union Agenda 2063 Pitch Zone Awards, a partnership with the African Women in Media.

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Zimbabwe: Reversing Malnutrition Through Food Security

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About The Author
- Friday Bako is Certified National Accountant (CNA), Blogger, Social Media Influencer/Strategist, Youth Activist and Advocate for good governance.