Menu ENN Search

Unlocking Zambia’s Agricultural Potential for Nutrition Development

Smallholder agriculture in ZambiaWilliam Chilufya

William Chilufya is a civil society advocate with 9 years of experience in championing pro poor development in Zambia. He is leading the Zambia Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN Alliance) advocacy agenda in Zambia.


Zambia has one of the highest rates of childhood undernutrition in the world. In 2014, stunting was reportedly 40% and wasting 6%, alongside high levels of micronutrient deficiencies: 53% of school-aged children are deficient in vitamin A while 46% have iron deficiency anemia (Zambia Demographic Health Survey, 2014).

The Government of Zambia recognizes the problem of undernutrition and has committed to take steps to improve the nutrition situation. In 2011, Zambia joined the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN), which has fostered the development of a national plan for nutrition that provides a strong foundation for addressing nutrition holistically. As a part of this, the National 1000 Days Programme was developed which focuses on preventing stunting in the first 1000 days of a child’s life. This programme has several components including 1) the provision of nutrition supplements (including iron, folic acid, multiple micronutrients, zinc for diarrhea) for specific vulnerable groups, 2) promotion of complementary feeding, breastfeeding, safe water and sanitation, 3) expansion of the integrated management of acute malnutrition and 4) development of nutritional sensitive activities and messages in social cash transfers and programmes.

The programme brings together five line Ministries including the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC); Ministry of Community Development, Mother, and Child Health; Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Local Government and Housing. To support this national commitment to nutrition, within the MoAC the 2015 budget has been expanded to include new budget lines to support scaling up nutrition initiatives within the Agriculture sector. Activities funded under these new lines aim to support 1) promotion of dietary diversity for pregnant and lactating mothers and 2) improving the availability of diverse, locally available and processed foods with a focus on women’s empowerment'.

While these efforts are significant and positive, maize still remains the focus of the Zambian diet and economy. Although maize provides some nutrients and calories, alone it lacks the variety of nutrients essential for healthy growth and development. In order for Zambia to respond appropriately to the overall problem of undernutrition, the country needs, and has begun to, reform its agriculture policy- in particular the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) and the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).

Agriculture policy

The heavy reliance on maize has been fostered by Zambia’s agricultural policy, particularly through the FISP, which is a national programme that seeks to improve household and national food security, incomes, and accessibility of agricultural inputs to small-scale farmers through a government subsidy. FISP also aims to build the capacity of the private sector to supply agricultural inputs.  Working alongside the FISP is the FRA, a national agency, whose main purpose is to ensure national food security and income of farmers by maintaining a sustainable national strategic food reserve. The FRA also acts to stabilize the economy based on national agriculture production. Both the FISP and FRA primarily focus on maize as the countries predominant staple crop.

Agriculture policy reforms: what is needed

Since 2010, the Government has taken small steps to diversify the FISP programme to include diverse crops and livestock. Rice was added in 2010/11, and sorghum, cotton, and groundnuts were added in 2012/13 as part of the former President’s push for crop diversification.

The Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN) argues that the agriculture sector is accountable not only for producing nutritious foods, but for stimulating demand for a diversified diet. A deliberate agriculture policy that supports diversification of agriculture (increase in production of a range of vegetables, fruits and small livestock) is crucial to increase nutrition security in Zambia.

CSO-SUN proposes that FISP reforms should address and include improved storage, processing, distribution and retail systems to support the production of a range of agricultural products and the consumption of a diversified diet. Small-holder farmers should be able to (and have access to necessary equipment) process the produce they have in order to maintain the nutrients, preserve produce, and reduce seasonal surplus and crop losses. Reforms should also address food safety risks such as aflatoxins.

Furthermore, it is recognized that gender is a fundamental component linking agriculture to improved nutrition. CSO-SUN is advocating to the Government that the National Agriculture Policy, and the FISP in particular, explicitly include improvement in women’s knowledge, skills, productivity and decision making power within the households in the objectives of the policies. Additionally, CSO-SUN suggests that a targeting strategy which includes how vulnerable groups, including pregnant women and women with children under five years of age, can access FISP as these are the groups most vulnerable to undernutrition. This strategy would foster empowerment of women who continue to face discrimination and often have less access to power and resources, including those related to nutrition.


The CSO-SUN Alliance is willing and able to partner with the Government to support agriculture reforms and ensure that there is a clear focus on improving nutrition through agriculture, food and nutrition policy. There is great potential for stakeholders to work together to unlock the agriculture sector’s potential to help address undernutrition and make Zambia more food and nutrition secure.

More like this

FEX: Role of communication and advocacy in scaling up nutrition: lessons and plans from the Zambian experience

By Eneya Phiri Lisez cet article en français ici Eneya Phiri is a seasoned advocate with four-and-a-half years' experience in nutrition advocacy and communications. He...

NEX: Singing the same song: Nutrition-sensitive agriculture messages in Zambia

Bertha Munthali has worked for ten years on nutrition in agriculture in Africa, and is currently advisor for the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis...

NEX: Business and civil society working together for nutrition: SUN Movement networks in Zambia

View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici Interview with Mathews Mhuru, Country Coordinator for Zambia's Civil Society Organisation (CSO) SUN...

FEX: Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) in Protracted Crisis: The South Sudan Civil Society Alliance (CSA) experience

By Mercy Laker, Dr Soma Emmanuel and Joseph Scott View this article as a pdf Lisez cet article en français ici Mercy Laker is Assistant Country Director for CARE...

FEX: SUN experiences: lessons from Pakistan

By Muhammad Aslam Shaheen and Dr. Ali Ahmad Khan Lisez cet article en français ici Muhammad Aslam Shaheen is Chief of Nutrition at the Ministry of Planning Development...

en-net: Nutrition Coordinator, Concern Worldwide Zambia, for the Female Youths Livelihood and Nutrition Enhancement Project

REQUEST FOR CURRICULUM VITAE’S FOR INDIVIDUAL CONSULTANTS (IC) COUNTRY/ GRANTEE: Concern Worldwide in Zambia NAME OF PROJECT: Zambia Female Youths Livelihood and Nutrition...

en-net: Nutrition Coordinator, Zambia Female Youths Livelihood and Nutrition Enhancement Project

COUNTRY/ GRANTEE: Concern Worldwide in Zambia NAME OF PROJECT: Zambia Female Youths Livelihood and Nutrition Enhancement Project Position: Nutrition Coordinator based in Lusaka...

FEX: SUN Movement experiences in Indonesia

By Nina Sardjunani and Endang L. Achadi Lisez cet article en français ici Nina Sardjunani is the SUN Lead Group member and was previously Deputy Minister of Ministry...

FEX: Making agricultural policies deliver better nutrition

Summary of report1 Location: Burkina Faso, Kenya, Peru What we know: There is increasing international interest in linking agriculture with nutrition. At national level,...

FEX: Update on Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) and the ‘1000 Day’ movements

By Tom Arnold and David Beckmann Tom Arnold is CEO of Concern Worldwide and David Beckmann is President of Bread for the World. Recognised globally as non-governmental...

en-net: CMAM/ IMAM consultancy opportunity with SUN Fund, Zambia

The First 1000 Most Critical Days Programme - Supported by the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Fund Terms of Reference for a Consultancy to Develop Options for Pilot Work Scaling...

FEX: The potential of nutrition-sensitive Conservation Agriculture: lessons from Zambia

By Anne Marie Mayer, Marjolein-Mwanamwenge and Carl Whal Anne Marie Mayer works as a freelance nutritionist specialising in the links between agriculture and nutrition. She...

NEX: Co-ordinating sectors: Kenya’s Food and Nutrition Security Bill

Gladys Mugambi is the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement Focal Point. Marjorie Volege is the SUN Support Officer UNICEF/Ministry of Health. Grace Gichohi is Nutrition Officer...

NEX: Role of communication and advocacy in scaling up nutrition: lessons and plans from the Zambian experience

Eneya Phiri, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Zambia Civila Society SUN Nutrition Alliance Background In the Republic of Zambia, children under five years of age have...

FEX: Experiences of multi-sector programming in Malawi

By Felix Pensulo Phiri Lisez cet article en français ici Felix Pensulo Phiri is Director of Nutrition in the Department of Nutrition, HIV and AIDS, Ministry of Health,...

en-net: Funding for SUN CSAs - Financiamiento para las ASCs SUN - please tell us about your experiences to secure funding.

Español mas abajo

How to leverage in country support for Civil Society Alliances for nutrition in countries that are members of the Scaling Up...

en-net: How can parliamentarians be mobilized to help achieve national nutrition objectives?

How can parliamentarians be mobilized to help achieve national nutrition objectives?

The question on role of parliamentarians in meeting national nutrition...

FEX: Advocating for nutrition in West Africa: The role of SUN Civil Society Alliances

By Judith Kabore and Laure Serra View this article as a pdf Judith Kabore is an advocacy officer at the regional office of Action Against Hunger. A journalist by training,...

FEX: Introduction to the special issue

The most recent Lancet series on maternal and child undernutrition (Bhutta et al, 2013) calculated that even with 90% coverage of specific nutrition interventions (addressing...

NEX: Filling the Nutrient Gap in Pakistan: Insights to address malnutrition

Dr Aliahmad Khan is a nutritionist with the World Food Programme Pakistan Country Office in Islamabad. Muhammad Aslam Shaheen is Chief of Nutrition and SUN Focal Point in...


Reference this page

William Chilufya (2016). Unlocking Zambia’s Agricultural Potential for Nutrition Development. Nutrition Exchange 5, May 2015. p23.



Download to a citation manager

The below files can be imported into your preferred reference management tool, most tools will allow you to manually import the RIS file. Endnote may required a specific filter file to be used.