Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

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    • Dear FSN Forum,

      Find below my contribution on the lessons and good practiceson investments for healthy food systems.

      Best regards




      Strengthening small holder farmers’ local initiatives on good practices on investments for health food systems through agro-ecology and food sovereignty in Zimbabwe rural areas.

      Date/Timeframe and location

      July 2017-July 2018 and Located in Shashe Area, Masvingo Province

      Main responsible entity

      Zimbabwe Small Holder Farmers’ Forum (ZIMSOFF)

      Nutrition context

      Since 2002, when it was formed ZIMSOFF has over the years been practicing food sovereignty and agro-ecology as well promoting production of small grains (Pulses) such as ground nuts, round nuts, cow peas, rapoko, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, sesame, millet and sorghum including agro-forestry of fruit trees. This has been practiced in Shashe area In Masvingo and other areas in Matebeleland North, Mashonaland and Manicaland province. This provides a diversified nutrition system and small grains have proved to be highly nutritious to improve dietary concerns of rural small holder farmers especially women. At the forefront of this local initiative is Mrs Elizabeth Mpofu from Shashe and resulted in United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) recognizing her role in promotion of Pulses and appointing her the Special Ambassador for Pulses in Africa in August 2016.

      Key characteristics of the food system(s) considered

      • Food sovereignty: a concept that recognizes the right of local peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through sustainable methods and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.
      • Prioritizes local food production and consumption giving a country the right to protect its local producers from cheap imports and to control production.
      • Agro-Ecology: the practice of applying ecological concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable production systems (agro-ecosystems).
      • Agro-ecology and production of small grains is the best agricultural practice that rural people can adopt to adapt and be resilient to harsh climatic conditions and have a stable nutrition system and provides diversified and sustainable nutrition systems as compared to conventional type of agricultural systems.

      Key characteristics of the investment made

      • Establishment of the Shashe Agro-Ecology School that promotes farmer to farmer training or extension services whereby farmers visit the school, share experiences and learn from each other on agro-ecology. It is referred to as farmer-to-farmer training or extension services on agro-ecology and food sovereignty and sustainable nutrition practices.
      • It is part of the La Via Campesina’s network of over 40 Agro-ecology schools around the world, and promotes the exchange of experiences through horizontal learning, to disseminate agro-ecological and sustainable peasant agriculture practices
      • Examples include organic farming, diversified crop rotations, biological pest control, extensive agro-pastoral systems and agroforestry.
      • Investments in climate change resilient practices such as sustainable land and water management through building of earth dams, pit holes, contours, veet grass that holds moistures and mulching and organic farming through use of manure, compost and conservation agriculture. One ZIMSOFF member, Mr Mawara from Murowa has won an award for good water harvesting practices in light of uncertainties in rainfall patterns in Zimbabwe.
      • Local seed multiplication of small grains and seed banking for future use by farmers including exchanging and selling among themselves in promotion of food sovereignty and production of small grains.
      • Construction of grain storages in each home stead, drying places and processing centers for value addition including packaging to prevent post-harvest losses. 

      Key actors and stakeholders involved (including through south-south/triangular exchanges, if any)

      • ZIMSOFF cluster members around the country organized into small holder farmers’ organisations at household levels, district and national levels.
      • ZIMSOFF local network members such as PELUM Zimbabwe and regional members such La Via Campesina (an international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity), Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers (ZIMSOFF being one of the founding member of this regional network), Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), Third World Network and African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) all these organisations promoting agro-ecology and food sovereignty and local small holder farmer initiatives on sustainable agricultural practices that promote a diversified nutrition in the region and South-South cooperation.
      • ZIMSOFF also works with the Ministry of Agriculture and local extension services as well as other international organisations such FAO, Action and Oxfam.

      Key changes (intended and unintended) as a result of the investment/s

      Some of the intended key changes include a diversified food and nutrition system among ZIMSOFF members, scaling up of agro-ecology and food sovereignty among ZIMSOFF members around the country, climate change resilient agricultural practices, sustainable water and soil management practices and strengthening leadership skills among women farmers and their engagement with policy makers through learning from the Shashe school. This has also resulted in improved income generation from farming practices by selling to other communities and the entire nation and other peoples from the South-South cooperation initiatives.  The other changes are turning once a non-productive land that was reserved for cattle ranching into productive land for food production and also ensuring that international organisations such as FAO to have a buy in and promote production of small grains (Pulses).

      Some of the unintended changes include some backlashes from seed companies competing with small holders for seed supply as farmers exchanging and selling their seed among themselves.  Other changes include criticisms from some sections of the society who claim that indigenous seeds are not productive ignoring that the seeds are resilient to harsh climate conditions and are freely available within communities.  Some sections of society allege that agro-ecology is expensive for small holder farmers ignoring that agro-ecology is based on use of available ecological resources and that it conserves the available ecological resources as compared to conventional agricultural practices.

      Challenges faced

      • The Agro-ecology school is located in agro ecological region IV that a very dry area receiving an average of 400mm of rainfall per year. Dry land agriculture has failed sometimes due to the current droughts.
      • One of the goals of ZIMSOFF is to scale up the agro-ecology schools and build more school around the country to meet the high demand of farmer to farmer training but funding constraints have hampered this and ZIMSOFF hope that this award will help in scaling up the practices.
      • Conventional agriculture is the more dominant and powerful alternative to food production at this stage, it is pushing for an industrial agricultural approach,  which over the years has vested more and more power and profit into the hands of fewer and fewer corporations
      • Of recent the Government of Zimbabwe has committed to implementing the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development program (CAADP), the 2014 Malabo Declaration and the SADC Regional Agricultural Policy of 2014 and its Investment Plans which are a threat to local solutions towards food sovereignty. These policies and programmes promote conventional forms of agriculture and do not recognize the importance of food sovereignty and agro-ecology that have been the backbone of sustainable nutrition practices by small holder farmers in rural areas especially women farmers.

      Lessons/Key messages

      • Some of the lessons learnt so far include the following:
      • The need for national and regional policy makers to support local farmers’ initiatives in food and nutrition by promoting agro-ecology, food sovereignty and production of small grains (Pulses).
      • Need for a policy on agro-ecology and food sovereignty.
      • Farmer to farmer training is the best way of extension services as farmers learn from each other and coping and scaling up the knowledge gained in other communities and neighboring countries.
      • There is need to upscale initiatives by farmers in seed multiplication and seed banking and retain seeds for future use that are climate change resilient.
    • Roles that can be played by Pulses

      Legume crops, which are also called pulses, nourish the land, the people, self-reliance and the economy. They enrich the soil and protect it from erosion and are often intercropped with small grains. Some of them are well-adapted to harsh conditions associated with climate change and variability. Pulses have high nutritional value for consumers and for their livestock and they can be sold at relatively good prices. The productivity of pulses is generally lower than that of maize, especially maize in high potential areas but their nutrition density is superior. In addition, small scale farmers, especially women, control the production and exchange of the seed of most pulses, making them an asset in the struggle for seed and food

      Strategies for mainstreaming pulses into production systems and diets for agroecological farmers who (already) include legumes in their farming systems:

      1. Mobilise other non-practising farmers to shift towards legume-rich farming systems and let them know the associated range of benefits;
      2. Increase the volumes, quality, accessibility and availability of quality legume seed, through getting training seed production and multiplication, working with public gene banks to access seeds not longer available in-situ, developing community seed banks and holding community seed fairs;
      3. Form commodity associations that are based on pulses;
      4. Run awareness campaigns (in partnership with supportive CSOs) targeting multiple actors, especially consumers, children and youth in schools and colleges to change their attitudes towards consuming traditional food and pulses;
      5. Add value to legumes and work with the food and nutrition sector to develop, hold food fairs and promote recipes based on pulses and traditional crops;
      6. Lobby government and NGOs to include pulses in their input support programmes;
      7. Influence governments to give legumes more prominence and support in its policies and programmes.
      8. Put women farmers at the forefront and centre of the struggles for the shift because they grow most of the seed, the pulses, and prepare most of the food consumed;
      9. Persuade research and extension services to include agroecological agriculture in the research and training work and work with farmers to better understand and integrate legumes into farming systems under different social-ecological conditions; and
      10. Urge technology developers to produce and supply efficient and affordable tools for the production and processing of legumes and small grains that they are often intercropped with.

      The reality is that cowpease is considered as originated in West Africa where 70% is from Nigeria and Niger.There are top five producers of pulses in Africa which include Ethiopia, Nigeria, Niger, Tanzania and Kenya but I am not certain if there are policies supporting these legumes. In Zimbabwe there is a program called The Zimbabee Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation which we hope can be a provision to support and promote these pulses to the extent of coming up with a policy. So these are areas which need to be worked on.



      FAO special ambassador for the IYP for Africa


    • The knowledge of the importance of pollinators is within the food producers although we know that the food producers do not always pay attention to these pollinators all the time.

      We just think that the bees are the only pollinators forgetting all kinds of butterflies and insects which contribute  quite a lot to our plants.

      First and foremost there is need to document the disappearance of pollinators and their importance. Campaign against use of chemicals and less use of pesticides is also important and campaign against use of GMOs and use of agro-toxics. It is very important to encourage the growing of natural trees which flowers and not dangerous. Growing crops such as sunflowers, watermelons, pumpkins and pulses are of added value to attract these pollinators.

      We also know that water harvesting is needed as these pollinators also need water.


    • As we continue with the discussions of how to fight overweight and obesity ,there is the truth by World Health Organisation that  many parts of Africa are best known for appealing for charity to combat famine and  looking at the views of the situation we are already facing an obesity epidemic.In their research they also mention that 12,7% African children will be overweight by 2020. My own analysis is that the percentage will be higher that what they are expecting. The reason being that already many young children are already affected by heart diseases,High Blood Pressure, Asthma and many other related diseases due to obesity.Secondly we are witnessing that children lake much attention by their mothers especially those who are employed as the children spend much time in the care of other people and the childcare quality may be substantially different.There is an increase of School Feeding programs in most of our countries.I also noticed that in all the decision making processes there are few or no women representatives to effect and assess the impact of any changes.Just to keep us reminded that we have changed in diet from traditional nutritious foods to high calories fast foods staples because weight is viewed as a sign of happiness.Another effect is for employed women who are obesity as there is they experience customer discrimination.

      There are so many challenges faced due to overweight and obesity which already seems to divide the communities.Just to mention a few of my thoughts on what policies should be put into place.Governments should prevent companies that produce and sell  unhealthy products.It is difficult for someone obesity to get medical care as the medical costs are high and so we appeal the responsible Ministries to put into place a policy that benefits all the rich and the poor.Women should be involved in all decision making processes.We need  a policy that determines and monitor the type of food stuffs to be on the markets. Food and drinks high in fat and sugar should be taxed.If possible fast foods should be banned and looking at the increase of food sold at schools, there is need to regulate these meals



    • Dear FSN Forum Moderator,

      To deeply look at the policies and programs to overcome overweight and obesity is very important. What we are noticing at the present moment is that there are some foods which people are going for the tests only. These are food such as hamburgers, chicken and chips and many more and these are mostly found in shops such as MacDonalds and others. In most cases many people are rushing for already pre-cooked foods which they buy and put into the so called microwaves to heat and eat. Many high working class communities prefer eating in restaurants also with their children as for them it is the easiest way. With my knowledge white bread is taken to be so special and people look at you if found eating brown bread. We have abandoned the knowledge by which we used to sit together as families and enjoy our food at home. More time is given to jobs at the work place and children are not interested in preparing their food at home. From these few comments I think there is more work needed to be done in sensitising consumers.  We need to build the collaboration between the food producers who are practising agroecological farming systems and consumers. There is also the need to lobby our Governments for policies that protects the Human Rights.

      These are just a few to mention.