Zimbabwe: FAO, Agric Ministry Hosts Bio-Fortification Forum

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in collaboration with Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, Climate will next month host a bio fortification awareness forum that is aimed at promoting nutrition sensitive agriculture and alleviation micro-nutrient malnutrition.

The event which will run under the theme "scaling up the fight against "hidden hunger" through bio-fortification in Zimbabwe" will focus on improving production and consumption of bio-fortified crop varieties in Zimbabwe.

Bio-fortification is the process of breeding staple crop varieties that are high in selected vitamins and minerals to make them more nutritious.

This technique provides an alternative solution to the problem of hidden hunger by letting the crops do the fortification work.

According to Zimbabwe's Ministry of Health and Child Care nutrition and health studies one in four children under the age of five years have vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and one in three have iron deficiency anaemia.

Likewise, one in four women of child bearing age have vitamin A deficiency while six in ten women have iron deficiency, and nearly one in four are anaemic and as such, the forum intends to formulate ways that minimise fatalities of nutrient deficiency especially this year were there has been a widely reported drought.

The event will bring together national and international experts in the bio-fortified maize and bean value chains, policy makers, private sector, programmers, nutrition technical experts, crop breeders and donors.

Some of the key focus areas include ensuring sustainability of bio-fortification activities within and beyond Zimbabwe as well as deal with key policy issues affecting growth of bio-fortification promotion in Zimbabwe and how to address them.

The forum also intends to formulate necessary steps towards formation of a national coordination mechanism for a structured national bio-fortification promotion programme, including how it will be monitored and supported locally.

Strategies for alleviating hidden hunger are many and should primarily focus on diversifying the diet to increase vitamin and mineral intake. Other effective interventions include bio-fortification, industrial food fortification and micro-nutrient supplementation.

Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS) report of 2015 states that stunting in children under 5 years of age affected an estimated one in five children (27 percent), down from 35 percent in the ZDHS 2005-06 report.

Zimbabwe is also experiencing a double burden of malnutrition with steadily rising rates of overweight and obesity amongst women and children. These malnutrition challenges require comprehensive multi-sectoral efforts to sustainably address them.

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