ZIMBABWE – The Ministry of Agriculture in Zimbabwe in collaboration with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will host a bio-fortification awareness forum aimed at promoting nutrition sensitive agriculture.

Running under the theme “scaling up the fight against hidden hunger through bio-fortification in Zimbabwe”, the initiative also seeks to alleviation micro-nutrient malnutrition.

It will focus on improving production and consumption of bio-fortified crop varieties in Zimbabwe.

Bio-fortification has been applied as a means of providing an alternative solution to the problem of nutrient deficiency across the world as a complement to industrial food fortification and micro-nutrient supplementation.

The technique is a process of breeding staple crop varieties that are high in selected vitamins and minerals to improve their nutritional profile.

According to Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care nutrition and health studies one in four children under the age of five years have vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and one in three have iron deficiency anaemia.

Moreover, one in four women of child bearing age have vitamin A deficiency while six in ten women have iron deficiency, and nearly one in four are anaemic, reports The Herald.

As such, the initiative intends to formulate ways that minimise fatalities of nutrient deficiency especially this year were there has been a widely reported drought.

The event will bring together national and international experts in the bio-fortified maize and bean value chains, policy makers, private sector, programmers, nutrition technical experts, crop breeders and donors.

Some of the key focus areas include ensuring sustainability of bio-fortification activities within and beyond Zimbabwe as well addressing key policy issues affecting growth of bio-fortification promotion in Zimbabwe.

The forum also intends to formulate necessary steps towards formation of a national coordination mechanism for a structured national bio-fortification promotion programme, including how it will be monitored and supported locally.

This is expected to address the nutrition related problem as the country is also experiencing a double burden of malnutrition with steadily rising rates of overweight and obesity amongst women and children.

The technique has been widely applied in increasing the nutritional density of various crops including; sweet potato, cassava, rice, corn, wheat, beans, pearl millet and potatoes

Some of the multinational companies that have invested in the sector include Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, DowDuPont, Monsanto, Charles River, LemnaTec, Intertek and Church and Dwight.