CATHERINE MUMBA, Choma
DESPITE a wide variety of nutritious food being available in Southern Province, many people experience poor nutrition because of bad eating habits.
While many people feel they cannot afford to have a balanced diet, some do not just have information on which food types are beneficial to their bodies.
Jennipher Handoondo, a farmer in Choma district, says access to nutritious foods should not be a challenge to the people in Southern Province as the region has a healthy variety to choose from.
Ms Handoondo, who is also vice chairperson of the Choma/Kalomo District Farmers Association and a regional representative for female farmers, said eating healthy food does not require one to be rich because some nutritious crops can be grown in backyards.
“The problem is we think nutritious food is only bought in supermarkets like Spar or Shoprite,” she said.
Ms Handoondo said people can grow healthy and nutritious vegetables as well as fruits in their backyards without applying any chemicals.
“I do not understand why we have completely forgotten about backyard gardens which we used to have in the past,” she said.
Ms Handoondo says it is not acceptable for people in Southern Province to lack nutritious food when the region is endowed with many nutritious fruits and plants such as moringa, baobab, nuts, beans and tamarind, among others.
Ms Handoondo said it is disheartening that most people have chosen to buy moringa at an expensive price when they can simply grow and process it from their homes.
“That is attracting poverty to ourselves. Something which you can do on your own, you just want to spend money on it by buying in supermarkets. Each and every household should have a moringa tree,” she said.
Ms Handoondo said people can also benefit from baobab fruits whose powder is very nutritious, and that the fruits which can be processed at home, are readily available in the province.
Another farmer, Geoffrey Mudenda, observed that people do not take interest in finding out the nutritional value of the food they eat.
“There is need to sensitise people on the importance of nutrition so as to enable them to start eating the right food. We have a lot of work to do to achieve this,” he says.
Mr Mudenda said most people, including farmers who grow healthy foods, are ignorant of the nutritional benefits, hence they sell everything without reserving something for their families.
The farmers were speaking during the Southern Province Food and Crop Indaba organised by the Civil Society for Poverty Reduction (CSPR) recently.
The indaba was part of CSPR’s implementation of a project called ‘Promoting agriculture diversification towards sustainable food production and consumption in Zambia’.
The goal of the project is to conduct lobby and advocacy initiatives that will enhance the availability and consumption of sustainable, affordable and healthy food.
CSPR provincial coordinator Eddy Musosa said the project will target its interventions towards the production of sustainable foods.
“CSPR will be advocating for government programmes to provide and support small-scale farmers to produce a variety of crops not limited to maize,” he said.
He noted that good nutrition is essential to the development of the country.
Mr Musosa said CSPR believes farmers have a major role to play in ensuring that the country has a variety of essential foods in stock to promote nutrition.
Key stakeholders in ensuring the promotion of nutrition, agriculture diversification and improved household food security were at hand to give their positions on how they feel proper nutrition can be best enhanced among citizens.
Popota Agriculture College practical instructor for animal science Patrick Malumba is of the view that the media is key in ensuring that people have information on nutrition.
“For example, the issue of tamarind (kawawasha), it has always been with us but we did not understand its nutritional value until the media highly publicised it through radio programmes and write-ups.
“This is where we see the power of the media at work. It (media) will be very instrumental in ensuring that people have knowledge of the importance of knowing the nutritional content of the food they eat,” he said.
Nutritionist Caroline Mangolwa emphasised that balanced diets are essential to ensure a healthy population.
“We need to endeavour to take balanced meals with contents such as carbohydrates which we get from nshima, protein from meat, beans and groundnuts, among others. We also need vitamins from fruits and vegetables,” she explained.
Ms Mangolwa appealed to Zambians to develop a culture of finding out the nutritional benefits of different types of food so that they eat what could add value to their bodies.
Representing the Southern Province Agriculture Office, Goliath Chooye wrapped up by acknowledging that there is a lot of work to be done to educate people on issues of nutrition.
He assured delegates at the food and crop indaba that Government was working hard to promote good nutrition among citizens through interventions such as agriculture diversification.
Mr Chooye said farmers under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) are not restricted to growing maize anymore to ensure a variety of food in the country.
“Unlike in the past, farmers are free to choose the seed of their choice without being restricted to maize seed. This is being done to promote diversity,” he said.
Mr Chooye said crop diversification will help in ensuring that Southern Province and the country at large continue to have foods which contain essential nutrients at an affordable price.
He said his office will continue to partner with various stakeholders to sensitise people on nutrition in Southern Province.
According to the Southern Australian (SA) Health (online guide), good nutrition based on healthy eating is one essential factor that helps people to stay healthy and be active.
“Poor eating habits include under or over-eating, not having enough of the healthy foods needed each day, or consuming too many types of food and drink, which are low in fibre or high in fat, salt and/or sugar,” it says.
It further says these unhealthy eating habits can affect one’s nutrient intake, including protein, carbohydrates, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals as well as fibre and fluid.
Poor nutrition can impair one’s daily health, well-being and reduce their ability to lead an enjoyable and active life.
It can contribute to stress and tiredness. Over time, it can increase one’s risk of developing health problems such as high blood pressure and obesity.
CATHERINE MUMBA, Choma