THE University of Zululand (UNIZULU) Consumer Sciences Department is changing people’s lives. This comes after the department held a three-day Nutrition Education Workshop to influence community behaviour towards pro-vitamin A bio-fortified maize. This was in collaboration with UKZN Food Security. The aim was to address the problem of vitamin A deficiency which is a “hidden hunger” to the population.
Speaking to the small holder farmers at KwaDlangezwa Campus, Consumer Science acting Head of Department Dr Bolyn Selepe said micronutrient deficiency poses to be a challenge beyond the Millennium Developmental Goals as 805 million people are estimated to be chronically undernourished.
In South Africa 43% of children under five years and 13.3% women in reproductive age are affected by Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD). “Therefore, bio fortified yellow maize has been developed to address VAD challenge. The end-users are often neglected when developing technologies or designing interventions, the approach adopted by the Bio fortified pro-vitamin A yellow maize research team is to engage and involve the smallholder farmers throughout the process,” said Selepe.
The Department’s Kate Ndwandwe said it was important that communities actively participate so their food and nutrition security status and well-being could be enhanced.
“There is a need for a paradigm shift in agriculture; food availability should match food nutrition content. The smallholder farmers showed interest in bio fortified maize; they are enthusiastic and cannot wait to plant the maize themselves. It seems as if their expectations have been met,” said Ndwandwe.
A small holder farmer, Lindiwe Nsibande said she came to the workshop to hear what is new about this maize. “Indeed the workshop has been an eye opener, we should not be hungry while we are engaging in agriculture,” she said.
Ndwandwe said the workshop interaction with the smallholder farmers triggered a demand for more community workshops and dialogues. “This is a beginning of many more workshops to come. Our communities need our knowledge and expertise for improved quality of life,” said Ndwandwe.