Read the full article in Thomson Reuters Foundation News by Sabine Homann-Kee Tui
Sabine Homann-Kee Tui is a social scientist with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
People in Bulawayo’s townships in Zimbabwe primarily survive on maize. Even so, the year 2019 has hit them particularly hard, with the drought drying up the supply of grain to the city. Prices of staple foods have gone up.
“Many of us know what makes a balanced diet, but we don’t have the means to access those nutritious foods,” says Thembelihle E Ndlovu, a community health worker in Old Pumula township.
Gabriel Banda, a young father, explains, “I eat at home as few times as possible so that the food can go a long way to feed my family.” Many parents are forced to make the same choice, eating just one maize meal a day.
Stella Nyathi, who is currently nursing her baby, worries, “Once she is weaned, what can I afford my baby with the little income I make as a vendor?”
Currently facing hyperinflation at 300% and high food costs (bread prices up by 60%), citizens of Zimbabwe are struggling to stay afloat. Particularly vulnerable are the urban poor.
What can be done?
Against this background, scientists at ICRISAT, Zimbabwe, explore approaches for tackling malnutrition through healthier food choices in African cities.
The “Check It” project aims to explore options to improve dietary diversity in urban high-density areas across Eastern and Southern Africa.
Can we get civil society, health workers and the food industry together to ignite a social movement, with clear, comprehensible steps, to give a new meaning of food and nutrition? Can we bring in healthier grains such as sorghum, millets and legumes from rural supply chains and connect them to urban populations through small-scale processing efforts?
Terrence Mugova of Educate says, “The idea is to find an entry point into dialog and exchange with communities, to discover areas of needs that go beyond providing a meal. We need to mobilize people from different backgrounds to provide vulnerable communities with nutritious food.
Busisa Moyo, CEO, United Refineries Limited, says, “We need simple, replicable business models that can engage people and help them access quality foods.”