Change can sometimes be difficult to accept, but at times it is necessary. In fast changing world it is indeed necessary to also adopt and change with your environment.
This also applies to the food that we eat as, depending on what we are eating and in what quantities, it can greatly affect our physiological and emotional state.
In this regard, there is now more than ever, a need to find practical solutions to the ongoing food and nutrition deficiencies we are witnessing in the modern world.
One such way we combat nutrition deficiencies is through biofortification, which is defined by the World Health Organization as “the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology.”
The process of biofortification can be particularly useful in the developing world where many people are reliant on their country/regions staple food in order to survive.
When it comes to Zimbabwe, maize is a staple crop that many people are reliant on for their daily diet (maize, mahewu, etc) but in some situations where that is the main supplement of a person’s diet, you will find shortfall of essential nutrients.
According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, “maize is the preferred staple food of more than 1.2 billion people in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Over 50 million people in these regions are vitamin A deficient. Maize-based diets, particularly those of extremely poor individuals, often lack essential vitamins such as vitamin A.”
A lack of essential nutrients can lead to a condition called hidden hunger, which the World Health Organization (WHO) defines as “a lack of vitamins and minerals.” Hidden hunger occurs when the quality of food people eat does not meet their nutrient requirements, so the food is deficient in micronutrients such as the vitamins and minerals that they need for their growth and development.
This is where biofortification can be a great solution to an ongoing problem, not just here in Zimbabwe, but the world over. Break throughs in biofortified maize have led to “orange maize” a vitamin A enriched maize crop that addresses the high levels of vitamin A deficiencies in developing communities that can sometimes result in child mortality or blindness in young children.
According to Crop Trust “nutrition trials in countries administering Vitamin A capsules resulted on average in a 24% reduction in child mortality. By breeding staple crops with higher amounts of Vitamin A, the supply of Vitamin A in our food sources can be sustainably increased.”
This is the change spoken of earlier but, as alluded to earlier as well, change can be difficult to accept. The appearance of the biofortified maize can sometimes put off prospective famers in developing communities. This is due to the stigma associated from something out of the norm, or in this case, an orange coloured maize as compared to the usual white maze farmers and their customers are used to.
This is a perception that John MacRobert, the Managing Director of Mukushi Seeds, who highlighted that opinions can change over time if enough information is given out.
He stated that “120 years ago there was no white maize in Zimbabwe – it was introduced and it became popular. So we can do the same with orange maize”
The good news is that this is that the uptake of biofortified crops is increasing on the African subcontinent as more information is being availed to farmers. If this trajectory continues, then we may well and truly be on the path to ending hidden hunger.
The Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) is a UK aid funded programme which aims to contribute to poverty reduction through increased incomes.
For more information on LFSP, visit their website https://lfspzim.com.
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