Friday, October 18, 2013

CSO-SUN calls for agricultural diversification
By Gift Chanda
Tue 24 Sep. 2013, 14:00 CAT

THE GOVERNMENT'S effort to diversify the agriculture sector should not be restricted to crops alone, advises the Zambia Coalition of Civil Society Organisations for Scaling-up Nutrition.

In an interview, CSO-SUN national coordinator William Chilufya noted that the government had placed less focus on livestock as it seeks to diversify the agriculture sector.

"We commend the government for keeping focus on diversification. However, we note that they have placed a lot emphasis on crop diversification," he said.

"Emphasis on diversification must not only focus on crop diversification but also on small livestock farming such as poultry, piggery, goats among others."

Chilufya noted that for the government to reduce malnutrition rates which currently stood at 45 per cent for children under the age of five in the country, a deliberate policy that supports diversification of agriculture was required.

"....but what is more critical is to have a deliberate policy that provides incentives for livestock production to allow for promoting increased per capita animal protein intake in Zambia," Chilufya said.

"Today in Zambia, children receive bulk diets deficient of the necessary amino acids (animal protein) for them to achieve the required nutrient balance for optimal health. Due to imbalanced intake, body processes are starved of the required elements, essential for growth and development."

Chilufya said President Michael Sata, during his address to Parliament last week, should have highlighted in clear terms the measures the government would take to ensure diversified diets for good nutrition.

"We would have expected the President to announce some of the commitments made in London during the nutrition for Growth Summit, in June 2013. This is important so that MPs and the general public get to understand commitments government has made to scaling up nutrition," he said.

"As one of the first signatories to the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, the Zambian government committed to fully reduce chronic under-nutrition by 50 per cent in the next 10 years through a combination of local efforts and international support."

To this effect, the government launched the First 1000 Most Critical Days Programme in April 2013 as part of scaling-up nutrition levels.
"Had the President taken note of nutrition in his speech, he would have demonstrated the highest political will in the fight against malnutrition," said Chilufya.

"Countries that are achieving more progress in reducing malnutrition have high-level political champions, clearly identified with the issue and pushing for progress."

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