Better nutrition through indigenous crops
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CTA. 2003. Better nutrition through indigenous crops. Rural Radio Resource Pack 03/02. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57405
Ben Chingwalu, an agricultural officer from Mwanza district in Malawi, discusses how improved nutrition can reduce disease, and the role of indigenous crops in improving nutrition among farming communities
Cue: In the last fifty years, agricultural development in Africa has mostly been built on non-native crops; the leading example is probably maize, which originally came from Latin America. However, the development of new, higher yielding varieties of non-native crops has often come with a price, many of them requiring expensive inputs of chemical fertilizer as well as careful and time-consuming management in order to be productive. When a farming family is afflicted by disease, both its financial resources and its capacity to work are put under pressure. As a result, crop yields tend to suffer, leading to a downward spiral of poor nutrition and worsening health. Is there a way for farming communities to break out of this negative cycle? One approach being advocated by the Ministry of Agriculture in Malawi is the growing of indigenous African crops. These often have the double advantage of being relatively easy to grow, and also being very nutritious, as Excello Zidana found out when he spoke to Ben Chingwalu, an agricultural officer from Malawi?s Mwanza district. IN: ?We are encouraging the farmers ?? OUT: ??prepare them for their meals.? DUR?N 3?07? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Ben Chingwalu on the important links between agriculture and nutrition. Transcript Chingwalu We are encouraging the farmers to grow a variety of crops and to keep a variety of animals so that their nutrition is improved so that they are able to keep themselves healthy, so that they are able to work hard in their fields. Zidana Can you mention some of the foods which are connected with nutrition status? Chingwalu We have got a variety of foods which are very nutritious. Here in Mwanza we are encouraging use of indigenous as well as exotic vegetables. Indigenous vegetables are those which are naturally growing in the area and these are proved to be very nutritious because they are very green and they have a lot of vitamins, particularly vitamin C. We are also promoting the growing of traditional legumes like pigeon peas, groundnuts, beans and Soya beans. As you know Mwanza is renowned for fruits, particularly the tangerines. So we are promoting the growing of tangerines so that farmers can also utilise them. We are also promoting the growing of roots and tubers. We are talking about cassava, sweet potato, white potato which some people call Irish potato. All these things combined improve the nutrition of the foods so that when they utilise these properly the people are able to get the nutritional requirements in their bodies. Zidana I remember previously you people have not been telling farmers to grow crops like what you have mentioned here. But now having gone into this programme have you noticed any impact so far? Chingwalu Yes there?s been a lot of impact because first of all the crops which were not emphasised previously are easy to grow, they don?t need a lot of inputs. These were ignored previously in our messages but now we are emphasising them and we have seen that they are nutritious and you see helping the farmers to improve their nutrition. We are emphasising on improving their traditional methods of growing these crops. So it?s really helping, it?s making an impact. Zidana What are some of the examples of the diseases which are associated with the lack of nutritious food? Chingwalu A wide variety of diseases, we are talking about kwashiorkor and marasmus, and I can say in general all diseases. When a person is not well fed, when a person is weak, he?s prone to attack by another disease and you know the impact of HIV/AIDS is going to be paramount because the people are very weak, so that any disease is going to attack them. So it?s cheaper for the government if people are well fed, they are able to prevent the diseases instead of going to the hospital. So we are going to save our hospital bills when the farmers improve their diets. Zidana Do you normally do some activities together with those from the Ministry of Health? Chingwalu Yes indeed, we work together with the Ministry of Health. For example; our members of staff in the field go to the under five clinics where they work together with the Ministry of Health officials to teach farmers on the production of nutritious foods that can be prepared locally here. So we are working together with the Ministry of Health as well as other Ministries so that we link together in terms of production so that our farmers can produce good quality foodstuffs and prepare them for their meals. End of track.