Road to Nutrition mainstreaming

Written by Marian Amaka Odenigbo and Simret Habtezgi

Government of the Republic of Zambia (GRZ) and IFAD fielded a joint-mission on portfolio alignment from 22 March – 2 April 2015. This activity was in response to the recommendation of a recent Country Programme Evaluation.
The mission was tasked to draw-out area of complementarity of current IFAD portfolio and build synergies for enhanced overall impact of project developmental goals. This portfolio constitutes current IFAD-funded projects in Zambia:
Smallholder Agri-business Promotion Programme (SAPP)
Smallholder Productivity Promotion Programme (S3P)
Rural Finance Expansion Programme (RUFEP)
Enhanced – Smallholder Livestock Investment Programme (E – SLIP)

It was interesting to see how the effort towards this mission generated discussions and enthusiasm on accelerating nutrition mainstreaming into IFAD investments.
Consultative meeting with beneficiaries, implementers and project staff at Luwingu main camp in Northern Province
I was opportuned to be a member of the mission. And in order to deliver to the stipulated tasks and responsibilities, we embarked on field visits to interact and discuss with beneficiaries, implementers and staff in the provinces, districts and camps.
For adequate spread and coverage of project locations, mission members broke up into two groups; one travelled to the Northern and the other to the Southern province. In similar vein regarding adequate coverage of nutrition issues during the field visit, I joined the group to the Northern while Simret, an intern who is supporting nutrition operations in Zambia IFAD Country Office joined the group to Southern province.

During a consultative meeting at Kasama district in Northern provinces, the stakeholders expressed keen interest and enthusiasm for integration and operationalization of explicit nutrition activities in the implementation of IFAD funded programmes.  I was really challenged with their expression because the project documents stated the need to promote nutrition without any explicit activities to support them.

To buttress this readiness for nutrition mainstreaming in IFAD-supported projects, Mr. Andrew Banda, the Provincial agricultural Coordinator informed the mission that field nutrition officers have recently been employed at each district to support nutrition activities in the various blocks and camps.
 Nevertheless, Rose Silyato, the Senior Agricultural Officer in Mbala district and Elizabeth Nakamanga, the nutrition officer in Northern province highlighted the lack of funding on nutrition-sensitive interventions and training needs for food and nutrition personnel.
In the Southern province, Simret noted likewise expression from her interactions with the camp officers in Choma district and the Food and Nutrition officers.

Attention of the mission was drawn to the selective locations of implementing Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) programme in Zambia. For instance, the Northern province has SUN implemention only in three districts (Kasama, Mbala and Kaputa) leaving out the other six districts (Kaputa, Mporokoso, Luwingu , Nsama, Kasama, Mungwi, Mbala, Mpulungu and Chilubi). This led to a recommendation to boast the SUN initiatives by leveraging nutrition mainstreaming under the portfolio alignment to target locations not covered by SUN.

As the mission visited demonstrations plots and Farmer Field Schools, Rob Delve the agronomist in the team highlighted the need for inclusion and promotion of nutrient dense crop varieties in implementation of S3P which is being led by Zambia Agricultural Research Institute. According to Rob, the farmer demonstrations of improved released crop varieties should involve nutrient dense varieties such as;
(i) the high iron and zinc content beans
(ii) the newly released enhanced vitamin A content orange maize varieties
(iii) the un-released enhanced vitamin A content orange cassava varieties.

One of the improved beans plot visited at Senga camp, Mbala district was on Mbereshi beans which is rich in iron and zinc. However, the mission observed that the farmers’ enthusiasm was only focused on the economic value of the improved varieties. Mission therefore, recommended for advocacy on nutritional relevance of biofortified varieties in Farmer Field Schools.

Rob(3rd left) inspecting the demonstration plot of cassava variety at Luwingu district.
Cassava tuber being peeled for processing after harvesting
Using a nutrition lens in promoting synergy and aligning parallel activities of the portfolio aims to exploit comparative advantages in the various projects for enhanced developmental goal and increased impact on the reduction of malnutrition. The areas of comparative advantages identified by the mission in each projects were as follows;
(i) Improved and nutrient dense crop varieties (S3P project)
 (ii) Availability and accessibility of safe nutritious food (E-SLIP)
 (iii) Value added nutritious product development (SAPP)
 (iv) Nutrition education via organized cooperatives and farmers’ groups (RUFEP)

At the conclusion of this mission, action plans drawn included an urgent need for nutrition sensitization workshop targeting Nutrition Officers, project staff and programme implementers. This action will facilitate the enthusiasm and concerted effort for accelerating and operationalization of nutrition mainstreaming in IFAD portfolio.