Making it RAIN in Mumbwa
Published On June 22, 2015 » 2023 Views» By Administrator Times » Features
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•SOME of the farm produce from Mwanachibindas’ holding.

•SOME of the farm produce from Mwanachibindas’ holding.

By MIRIAM ZIMBA –

COUNTRIES like America have what they call Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is a nutrition panel that helps update and revise the nation’s dietary guidelines.
The panel, comprising 14 health experts with dozens of specialists in support, emphasises the need for citizens to eat a diet more oriented toward plants.
In Zambia, there is gross ignorance of what we should eat leading to large consumption of unhealthy foods that have contributed to diseases related to poor dietary habits.
A typical example is the Mwanachibinda family of Mumbwa’s Milandu Ward whose household was previously affected by malnutrition, as a result of inadequate knowledge on nutritional food.
“We used to frequent the health centre because the children were always afflicted by different ailments as a result of nutrition deficiencies,” says Clifford Mwanachibinda.
Mr Mwanachibinda and his wife Maureen, who has six children, are peasant farmers and previously depended on rain-fed  agricultural crops for feeding their family.
The typical everyday diet is one that consisted of nshima and local vegetables such as okra cooked in bicarbonate soda, which has very little nutritional value.
Life for the Mwanachibindas was like this until five years ago when a non-governmental organisation, Concern Zambia, in partnership with the Civil Society Organisation Scaling Up Nutrition (CSO-SUN), began working towards improving nutrition in Mumbwa District.
The collaboration between the two NGOs resulted in the introduction of what is referred to as the Realigning Agriculture for Improved Nutrition (RAIN) project, which has benefited more than 4,500 people in Mumbwa District.
According to Mr Mwanachibinda, when the project was first introduced in Mumbwa, there was some form of hesitance from the community because of some uncertainties about the sustainability of the project.
“We were a bit reluctant to embrace this project because we thought it was just one of the many projects initiated by some NGOs that just work for a limited period and wind up without passing on the benefits to the community,” Mr Mwanachibinda said.
“But we have learned how to better look after our livestock, gained knowledge on seed varieties which have bigger yields and have learnt conservation farming techniques.”
Mr Mwanachibinda is one of the beneficiaries of the RAIN project who received two goats, two chickens and seed such as groundnuts, cowpeas, carrots and a variety of vegetable seeds.
With the minimal input he received from the project, coupled with the knowledge on conservation farming, he has managed to double and in some cases, triple the yield of what he has harvested so far.
“We have just harvested 70×50 kilogramme bags, from the two kilogramme seed we received from RAIN, and we harvested 6x50kg bags of cowpeas from the 500 grammes of seed we received,” Mr Mwanachibinda said.
“We now have 16 goats and 175 chickens from the initial two goats and chickens we received.”
The RAIN project also empowered farmers in Mumbwa with knowledge on how to construct improved shelters for the goats and chickens, and now Mr Mwanachibinda has improved structures for his livestock.
“From this project, we also learnt the importance of frequent vaccinations for our goats and chickens, so as to avoid vaccine preventable diseases and to keep them healthy,” he said.
With the knowledge gained, the importance of a balanced diet that consists of fat, proteins, carbohydrates and vitamins, Mr Mwanachibinda’s household now has better meals.
“We can afford the foods we need from the money we generate after selling our goats, chickens and crops, and we also eat some meat, chickens, eggs and milk from our stock,” he said.
This is something that was not the case previously because meat, chickens, milk and eggs were a preserve of special festivities, and did not form part of the everyday menu.
Mrs Mwanachibinda is proud to say that she no longer has to worry about her children being malnourished because she now knows what food to feed to the family in order to prevent malnutrition.
“Because of the knowledge on better nutrition we received, I no longer frequent the health centre because my children are not malnourished,” she said.
“I only visit the health centre for other ailments, not malnutrition.”
The Mwanachibindas are now exploring ways of sustaining increased productivity of crops and their livestock, with hopes of raising their poultry stock to about 500 chickens.
Inspired by her father, late president Michael Sata, Stella Sata is now a national nutrition champion for CSO-SUN.
Ms Sata is keen on making an impact on the lives of vulnerable communities afflicted by malnutrition, through advocacy to promote good nutrition.
According to CSO-SUN advocacy and communications officer Eneyah Phiri, Ms Sata first interacted with CSO-SUN through twitter and was immediately drawn by its mandate to fight malnutrition.
After successful engagement, she was conferred with honorary membership of the Alliance and is now a nutrition champion.
Ms Sata explains why issues of nutrition are close to her heart:
“I believe investing in nutrition through projects funded by the CSO-SUN such as the RAIN project which improve  the welfare of beneficiaries at family level and roll over to improve the welfare of society at macro-economic level.”
She believes that nutrition is an important agenda that should top the priorities for policy makers in the country to ensure a reduction on deaths of children from malnutrition.
“To do this, we need to first of all raise awareness on the importance of good nutrition, and I do hope that both Government and corporate leaders can raise their voices and sensitise the nation,” she said.
Ms Sata called on leaders in the country to work towards coming up with policies that could promote causes such as those being championed by organisations such as CSO-SUN.
Malnutrition continues to be a major public health concern in Zambia, with high rates of stunting, which currently stands at about 40 per cent,
Since joining the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN), Zambia has adopted a multi-sectoral approach to improving nutrition outcomes.
As a result of this, the National Food and Nutrition Strategic Plan that the country has developed is cross-cutting over various sectors.
This plan combines action across five key line ministries, including the Ministries of Agriculture, Community Development, Mother and Child Health, as well as the Ministries of Local Government and Health.
Mr Phiri said that CSO-SUN believed that approaching the malnutrition crisis through such multi-disciplinary efforts across different sectors was key in elevating nutrition as a national development issue.
He called for the need to further sustain awareness of the importance of nutrition in different sectors.
“That is why CSO-SUN supports its partners, Concern Worldwide, in the RAIN Project,” he said.
Mr Phiri explained that the project had a  focus on improving the lives of the communities in Mumbwa, through diversifying diets of diverse agricultural produce.
He said that mothers were taught the importance of nutrition during the 1,000 days of a child’s life from conception until he/she was two years old.
The Mwanachibindas are just an example of the evidence that supports CSO-SUN’s calls for an improved agricultural system that will address the needs of the most vulnerable communities in the country.
It is clear that the RAIN project is evidence that diverse diet results in improved nutrition and improved livelihoods, with a bearing on overall national development goals.
With such interventions, Zambians would ceratinly differentiate between a satisfactory meal and a nutritional one.

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