In Zambia, heavily starch-based diets are common, and child malnutrition is high. This project is working with health workers and government nutritionists to raise awareness of the dietary value of indigenous fruits and wild foods like caterpillars. It also works with nursery operators to grow seedlings of these important trees. The aim is 10,000 homes with year-round diets rich in micronutrients and new earnings from sale of fruit. "We did not know we could plant these trees," say communities.
Africa's great miombo forest, rich in indigenous fruit, lies across Zambia. Wild fruit makes up 80% of rural women's intake. But deforestation is causing tree cover to recede, and nature's abundant supply is falling. At the same time, farms themselves produce few fruits and vegetables. The result is that diets provide little in the way of the micronutrients needed for healthy growth and well-being. Child stunting is high and women's intake of vitamins and minerals is far below what is required.
Bringing greater diversity of local fruit trees on to farms along with suitable exotic fruit trees provides a steady supply of vitamins and minerals. When families have 10-12 fruit especially combined species per farm, at least one will be fruiting at any time. The project is training local nursery operators to raise these trees and working with families to adopt them. Local fruit trees are ecologically adapted, more likely to resist drought/pests, require little labor, and fill in hunger gaps.
The project will enrich the diets of up to 10,000 households by boosting diversity and seasonal availability of nutritious foods. It will create green jobs and steward above and below ground biodiversity (soil). It will address the climate crisis; trees absorb carbon and protect farms from shocks like floods. Women will have more access to cooking energy from branches, twigs. Incomes will rise (some fruit sold in towns). Higher goals are a healthier food system and a new way forward on stunting.
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