20 August 2022, Zambia: A HarvestPlus partnership in Zambia is supporting refugees and their host communities with humanitarian supplies of vitamin A-enriched orange sweet potato (OSP) and the means to grow it themselves for improved food and nutrition security. Smallholder farmers in the refugee settlements will also benefit from the opportunity to sell their OSP vines on the market, providing an important livelihood boost.
The collaboration between HarvestPlus, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Sylva Foods Solutions Limited and other partners started in November 2021 as part of an 18-month Government of Canada-funded “Integrated Food Systems” project that is providing urgent food, nutrition, and livelihood support to vulnerable communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zambia hosts refugees from DR Congo, Angola, Burundi, Rwanda and more countries in three UNHCR settlements in Meheba, Mayukwayukwa, and Mantapala, located in the western and northern parts of the country. HarvestPlus is delivering essential training in nutrition and agronomy to 1,300 lead farmers in the settlements, to support UNHCR in their comprehensive multi-stakeholder approach to providing essential public health, livelihood, and social services, including much-needed nutrition, food, and income security. The trained lead farmers will pass on their learned skills to their many follower farmers within the settlement areas.
A 2021 UNHCR survey indicated that the average rates of stunting among children in the refugee settlements range from 17-53 percent, indicating chronic malnutrition and exposure to poor living conditions in early life. Average anemia prevalence in the three settlements ranges from 41-74 percent in children and 43-49 percent in women. Biofortification is a proven strategy for improving children’s and women’s nutrition and health; eating OSP regularly can improve and maintain the immune system and reduce child morbidity.
As part of this project, HarvestPlus and its partners are strengthening the production, processing, and consumption of biofortified OSP and iron beans among vulnerable households, many of them women-headed.
Aggregation centers are being established and expanded in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture for participating smallholder farmers to store their biofortified produce and preserve its freshness prior to processing; this helps build a ready off-taker market. In select districts, the project is facilitating linkages with Sylva Foods (a woman-led and managed food processing business) and other processors to increase smallholder farmer entrepreneurial activities and expand the reach of OSP-based products.
The collaboration will continue until June 2024, ensuring these and other critical activities are implemented and sustained, providing lasting beneficial impacts to refugees and their host communities, as well as many other vulnerable Zambian households.