“Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World”

In its hay-day, Zimbabwe used to be popularly known as "the breadbasket of Africa."

The term was used to boast about the agricultural output of
Zimbabwe and its ability to not only feed its people but to have enough to
export as well. As the years went by however, the breadbasket soon became a
begging basket. Today, the World Food Program (WFP) says that 63% of
Zimbabweans live below the poverty datum line with 27% of children having
stunted growth because of unbalanced diets. The WFP also says that up-to
5.5million people will be food insecure in Zimbabwe by January 2020.

Theme and Statistics

This year’s theme for World Food Day is “Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger
World”. This theme promotes Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 which seeks
to end world hunger and malnutrition by the year 2030. This year, the goal
is to make countries rethink how they grow food, how they share food and how
they consume food. The theme seeks to raise awareness on how a large
population of the world suffers from hunger and malnutrition. The theme
calls for promotion in sustainable agriculture, supporting small-scale
farmers, access to land as well as technology to improve production.

At present, Zimbabwe is ranked 109th out of 117 countries on the Global
Hunger Index citing that the hunger situation in Zimbabwe is serious. One in
four children under the age of five are said to be vitamin A deficient by
UNICEF while 60% of women are said to be anaemic in the country. According
to FAO, unhealthy diets are one of the leading risks for deaths from non
communicable diseases including heart attacks, diabetes and certain cancers.
Food security and adequate nutrition are important factors in our day to day
lives that cannot be ignored.

Constitutional Obligation

Section 15 of the Zimbabwean Constitution obliges the state to promote the
growing and storage of adequate food, to secure the establishment of
adequate food reserves and encourage and promote proper nutrition. The
government is to take heed of this mandate and is to be remembered that the
constitution is after all, the supreme law of the land. Exercising section
15 is not an option – it is a must.

Following this mandate and keeping in line with the requirements of the
theme, the Zimbabwean government is reminded that investment in agriculture
is crucial. At present, the lead program in agriculture is Command
Agriculture. As the government carries out this program and land audits it
is reminded that land distribution is to be free and fair, without prejudice
and without favour. The government is reminded that rural women make the
bulk of small scale farmers that feed at least 67% of the Zimbabwean
population and as such rural women should not be forgotten when being
granted land and being given incentives. As the theme mandates States to
guarantee access to food, the Zimbabwean government is encouraged to address
the food price crisis and take measures for food to be affordable and
accessible to all.

Time to Rethink

Zimbabwe must rethink the farming methods that are currently in use. Time
and again the rains have proven to be an unreliable source of irrigation –
the time to re-strategise has come. With the ever changing climate, Zimbabwe
needs to adapt and change present outdated methods and technologies to be
able to meet the hunger and nutritional requirements of its people. Adapting
new methods is one way of tackling the crisis we are in but transparency in
initiatives and incentives is also another area we need to focus on and
improve in order to reduce malnutrition and hunger overall. Ministries are
encouraged to cooperate with Parliamentary Portfolio Committees in order to
make sure Command Agriculture works for us and not against us.

With as much arable land as Zimbabwe has, hunger and malnutrition do not
have to be part of the Zimbabwean narrative. It is time to steer the
narrative from a begging basket back to being the breadbasket.

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