By Bupe Nakazwe Sumbwa
Estella Mwanza, a Food and Nutrition Officer in Zambia, is working towards promoting food security among marginalized and vulnerable local inhabitants through food preservation skills. Mwanza, who is also a mother, recognizes the heightened risks that marginalized women and girls in her community face due to poverty and the increasing food prices. Without adequate intervention, this situation could exacerbate the existing food crises in Africa, with women and girls being disproportionately affected.
Mwanza’s initiative involves mobilizing women into small groups and equipping them with knowledge and skills on food sustainability. These groups are also taught how to form self-help groups and register as cooperatives. They bring in foods that they grow and are taught the importance of preparing a balanced meal and the nutritional value of each food group. The women are also taught how to preserve foods using different methods such as sun drying, salting, and smoking.
The training has yielded positive outcomes, including the reduction of food wastage and the attainment of nutrition and household food security.
Mary Rupia, one of the trainees shared how the food security training has benefitted her; “Now that I have learnt how to dry most of my vegetables, meat and fish, my household is managing to have three meals a day and because we have no refrigerators, we are also able to keep food for longer months than before the training”.
Gift Mhango beneficiary of the initiative added that “our children are enjoying their food more, gaining weight thus looking healthy. Since our homes now have enough food, children are also doing well at school as they are able to eat before going to school which was not the case before we were equipped with the knowledge of processing and preservation of food”.
However, the initiative has encountered some challenges, including low adoption of the training, low monitoring and evaluation, and inadequate finances. The nutrition department is working with other organizations to bridge this gap.
Zambia has an estimated population of 17.4 million, with 35% of children stunted and 48% of the people unable to eat three meals a day or meet their minimum calorie requirements. The success of Mwanza’s initiative highlights the importance of addressing food insecurity at the home level, which could contribute to attaining food security at the country level. Women like Mwanza deserve recognition for their efforts in promoting food security in their communities.