(By Fridah Nkonde and Melony Chisanga)
ZAMBIANS, whether in poor or rich communities, are increasingly eating foods with many calories, rich in sugar, fat, and often highly processed foods with fewer healthy options, says Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations representative George Okech.
And Hivos Southern Africa regional director Tanja Lubbers says the food people are eating is increasing chances of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, High Blood Pressure.
During the launch of the local food value book at Southern Sun Hotel in Lusaka on Thursday, Okech said local food was important in dietary diversity and prevention of stunting, overweight and obesity.
“The Zambian plate looks very different from how it looked 30 years ago. In most parts of Zambia, whether poorer or richer communities, people are increasingly eating foods with many calories, rich in sugar, fat, and often highly processed foods with fewer healthy options. Meals made of a variety of foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, ingenious local foods are disappearing from many people’s diets. In another 15 years, our children may not know what ‘chikanda’ is (root yam made with ground nut flour)” Okech said.
“Local Food Value Book initiative to collect, collate and consolidate this fast disappearing local foods is very welcome as it preserves and allows others to have a collection of traditional foods, including some that are not indigenous at their fingertips. I am reliably informed that the book has also documented other foods of nutrition importance. Some of the local and indigenous foods like Black Jack, Amarathus are super foods, a power bank of micro-nutrients and much superior in nutrient quality than some exotic foods. This book has direct relevance to the Food Based Dietary Guidance: the work that Ministry of Agriculture with Technical Cooperation Agreement with FAO embarked on earlier this year.”
He said the Food Based Dietary Guidance advises the general public to promote healthy eating and provide harmonised nutrition messages.
“One of the key issues of consideration is promoting healthy eating through local foods and also promote sustainability,” said Okech.
And agriculture minister Michael Katambo said the government recognised the importance and value of consuming local foods in diets.
“Let me begin by commending Hivos-Southern Africa, and the consortium partners – International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for the initiative of stocktaking and documenting the various local foods of value in Zambia. This is indeed commendable as it creates awareness to the consumers on the available local foods and their nutritive value. In this regard, one of the thrust areas in the second national agricultural policy is to promote the production, processing and consumption of local foods of value,” said Katambo in a speech read for him by permanent secretary Julius Shawa.
Hivos Southern Africa regional director Tanja Lubbers said the food people were eating today was not giving them desired health outcomes but that it was producing malnutrition – stunting, overweight and obesity.
She said the food people were eating was increasing chances of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, High Blood Pressure, among others.
“Celebrating local food value and diversity book was inspired by the Chongwe Food Change Lab. The food change lab is a multi-stakeholder innovation process that aims to better understand problems in the Zambian food system, build coalition of change, generate solutions, and test them on the ground. The local food value book was developed through focus group discussions conducted with adult members in Chongwe to identify commonly consumed indigenous foods. The food value booklet is therefore intended to inform and educate the people not only of Chongwe district but also of all Zambia,” said Lubbers.
Hivos-Southern Africa Sustainable Foods Regional advocacy manager William Chilufya said Hivos had begun a journey of promoting local foods.