Government will soon roll out a mandatory bio fortification program where food processors will be forced to add micro nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B into their products, a senior government official has said.
Speaking at the launch of widespread availability of bio fortified (high nutrient) seed varieties, minister of Health and Child Care, Dr David Parirenyatwa said nutritional deficiencies increase pressure on the national health system through increased risk of illnesses, while compromising growth, development and productivity of the nation in the long term.
Dr Parirenyatwa said “industrial fortification of food would help in promoting a healthy nation. We should introduce mandatory industrial fortification of food even to stock feed manufacturers so that we can have nutrients readily available in the food.
“Orange maize adds nutritional value to the body as it contains Vitamin A which reduces the risk of illness and increases growth. Nearly one in every five children under the age of five is Vitamin A-deficient and this has put pressure on the national health system.”
Dr Parirenyatwa endorsed the production of bio-fortified beans, rich in iron and zinc, which reduce cases of anemia mostly found in children under the age of five and women between 15 and 49 years.
In a speech read on his behalf by Mrs Danisile Hikwa, Principal Director in the Department of Research and Specialist Services, the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development Dr Joseph Made said there is overwhelming evidence that consumption of these traditionally cooked bio fortified food crops improves nutritional status.
He said “bio fortification is a nutrition-smart agricultural intervention supported by robust scientific evidence demonstrating that regular consumption of traditionally cooked bio fortified food crops improves the nutritional status of the most vulnerable groups, rural and marginal-urban, poor women of child bearing age, pregnant or not and children.
“Closer to home, this technology is in line with the national food fortification strategy that was launched by the government in November 2015. This strategy recognizes that addressing micronutrient malnutrition requires complementary approaches including bio fortification and dietary diversification,”
He added that Bio fortification is also in line with the country’s economic blueprint, the ZimASSET, which among other things encourages collaboration across sectors to promote food and nutrition security of the nation and socio-economic growth and development.
Speaking at the same event FAO sub-regional director Dr David Phiri said that the Livelihood and Food Security Program (LFSP) was also promoting production of other crops to address the country’s food shortages.
“Bio fortification enhances the availability of vitamins and minerals for people whose diets are dominated by micronutrient deficient staple food crops.
“In the LFSP, bio-fortified crops are also promoted with other crops because their consumption only will not address the hunger and issues of malnutrition in Zimbabwe,” Dr Phiri said.
Last year, the maize variety produced two cobs per plant and recorded 12.6 metric tonnes per hectare, while the bean type recorded 3.8 metric tonnes per hectares revealed Lister Katsvairo, Harvest Plus Country Manager.
Other components of the programme are raising smallholder farm productivity by introducing improved and climate appropriate agricultural practices, increasing access to finance, and linking smallholder farmers to profitable commercial markets, to stimulate demand and supply of affordable nutritious foods.
The programme is targeting 126 975 smallholder farm households in Mutare, Makoni, Mutasa, Kwekwe, Gokwe South, Shurugwi, Guruve and Mt Darwin districts.
Dr David ParirenyatwaHealth and Child Care