The Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) successfully hosted the Biofortification Learning Event at Cresta Lodge.
The event aimed to shed more light on biofortification by sharing experiences and lessons learned from promoting biofortified crops as a nutrition sensitive agriculture intervention to alleviate micronutrient malnutrition in Zimbabwe.
Additionally, the learning event also aimed to explore ways of using such experiences and lessons to scale up production and consumption of biofortified crop varieties in Zimbabwe.
Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved through agronomic practices, conventional plant breeding, or modern biotechnology.
Hon. Vagelis Haritatos, the Deputy Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate and Rural Resettlement delivered the keynote address.
He highlighted the need for local formers and producers to embrace biofortification as well as uniting together to help Zimbabwe become self-sufficient again.
The main issue that was addressed by numerous speakers was the need to destigmatize the process behind biofortification, as it can often be confused with genetically modified organisms (GMO).
The main difference between genetically modified crops and biofortified crops is genetically modified crops are plants used in agriculture the DNA of which has been modified using genetic techniques.
In most cases the main aim is to introduce new traits to the plant which do not occur naturally in the species and biofortification crops are those which focuses on making plant foods more nutritious as the plants are growing, rather than having nutrients added to the foods when they are being processed.
This was something that was picked up upon by the Biofortification Learning Event’s moderator John MacRobert, who was speaking about orange maize, a biofortified crop that is rich in vitamin A.
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”
Dr Eric Boy, Harvest Plus head of nutrition spoke about the how the vitamin A enriched orange maize is already proving to be beneficial to young children.
“Research has shown that Vitamin A maize created from Biofortification can improve vitamin A status and night vision of four to eight-year-old rural children in Zambia”
Another running theme at the learning event was the issue of hidden hunger, which was incorporated as the overarching theme of the event through the hashtag #EndHiddenHunger.
According to the World Health Organization, hidden hunger “is 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.”
Biofortified crops are viewed as a viable way to end hidden hunger, since they will have some of the essential nutrients that may be missing from the diets of economically vulnerable demographics.
The Biofortification Learning Event successfully shed light on the need to end hidden crops through the integration of biofortified crops in the Zimbabwean agriculture cycle. If the presence and support of the government agencies and various non-governmental organisations present at the event are anything to go by, Zimbabwe may truly be on its way to ending hidden hunger if all sectors unite to fight this common enemy.
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.
You can also connect with LFSP on social media:
Twitter – www.twitter.com/LFSPZim
Facebook – www.facebook.com/LFSPZimbabwe