Jump to content

Making policies nutrition sensitive in Zambia

Posted: 28 May 2015
Mr. Eneyah Botoman Phiri who is the advocacy and communications Officer at the Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN) in Zambia writes for Eldis on how CSO-SUN are working with government and other stakeholders to make policies nutrition sensitive in Zambia.

Malnutrition in Zambia
Malnutrition continues to be a major public health concern in Zambia, with high rates of stunting (40%) and wasting (6%) alongside high levels of obesity (23%), particularly in women. Micronutrient deficiencies were also reported to be high with 53% of school-aged children being deficient in vitamin A and 46% suffering from iron deficiency anemia (Demographic Health Survey, 2014).

Zambia malnutrition

Source: Zambia Demographic Health Survey (2013/14)

Government efforts to tackle undernutrition

Zambia joined the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN) which has adopted a multi-sectorial approach to improving nutrition outcomes globally. As a result of this, the country developed, among others, a comprehensive National Food and Nutrition strategic plan that is cross cutting over various sectors. The strategic plan combines action across five key line ministries including the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives; Ministry of Community Development, Mother, and Child Health; Ministry of Education and Ministry of Local Government.

The Zambian government has taken strides in the recent past to develop a policy and legal framework that supports nutrition development in the country. This has been evident in the development of the first ever social protection policy and the attempts to maximize the impact of the agriculture and food system on nutrition outcomes through the revision of the National Agriculture Policy (NAP). The Government has also made efforts to review and repeal the National Food and Nutrition Commission Act of 1965.

CSO-SUN Alliance: leading the way on nutrition advocacy in Zambia

The Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN) has been advocating for a policy and legal environment that promotes improved nutrition outcomes in Zambia. The Alliance is a movement of civil society organisations working to scale up the profile of nutrition on the national development agenda. One way in which it intends to achieve this is by channeling the comparative advantages of various member organisations and stakeholders to adequately influence policy in the country in order to address the nutrition needs of the most vulnerable in society.

At the centre of its advocacy agenda, the CSO-SUN Alliance has developed “The 10 key recommendations to addressing under-nutrition in Zambia” or simply “10 key Asks”. These are a set of recommendations that were developed consultatively with civil society, the cooperating partners and the government. The key asks are a multi-disciplinary effort to identify key areas for action across sectors that are required to effectively address the nutrition situation in Zambia. They encompass practical recommendations from coordination issues to staffing needs and funding gaps.

The Ten critical steps to address Child Under-nutrition in Zambia are:

1. Build political will to tackle under-nutrition;
2. Ensure effective high-level national coordination;
3. Increase spending to address the nutrition crisis;
4. Address the serious gaps to ensure adequate human resources at all levels;
5. Create transparent financial mechanisms to protect nutrition funding;
6. Reform existing programmes to increase their effect on nutrition;
7. Provide clear public data and information on emerging evidence and strategy;
8. Ensure effective decentralized coordination at Provincial and District Level;
9. Provide financial incentives to engage the private sector to tackle under nutrition; and
10. Engage Civil Society as a partner in the fight against under-nutrition,

Source: 10 Critical Steps to address Child Under-nutrition in Zambia, permanently.

CSO-SUN’s recommendations towards making the agriculture sector more nutrition sensitive

CSO-SUN recognises that in order to reduce malnutrition rates in Zambia, there is a need for policy priorities in the agriculture sector to include explicit nutrition objectives. In light of this, the Alliance convened its members and other stakeholders to make recommendations to the draft NAP that the government is in the process of reviewing. The Alliance recognised that the NAP, in its current state, does not adequately address the nutritional needs of the Zambian people. It could benefit from key recommendations that lead to a developed agriculture sector which can improve nutrition and health outcomes in two ways:
  • Directly, for example, through the production and consumption by small-scale farmers of an energy sufficient and nutritionally diverse diet.
  • Indirectly, for example through changing the price of foods through increased market supply, or through enhanced household and national income by means of increased agricultural productivity.
The complete recommendations made to the Ministry can be accessed here:

The CSO-SUN Alliance met with the Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary (far left in the image below) and the ministry’s Policy and Planning department to amplify and consolidate the recommendations made to the draft NAP. This interaction fosters strong partnerships with strategic partners and gives credence to further input in policy from civil society.


The CSO-SUN Alliance’s nutrition advocacy agenda has been focused on supporting the reform of existing programmes to increase their effect on nutrition. This is why, in 2014, we focused mainly on the impact that the social protection policy and the agriculture policy have on the lives of the Zambian people. As an Alliance, we believe that the right policies coupled with strong implementation plans executed would have tangible impact on the growth and development of a healthy nation.

recommended reading from the author

National agriculture policy recommendations
Zambia Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance 2014
The Government of Zambia in coming up with the draft National Agriculture Policy (NAP) and its implementation plan is prepared to ensure that agriculture is positioned to drive growth and development in Zambia. As such, The Plat...
Ten Steps to address under-nutrition in Zambia
Zambia Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance 2013
The Government in Zambia has a new programme on malnutrition, the 1000 most critical days programme and child nutrition is increasingly being seen as a priority for government, civil society and the private sector alike. ...
Malnutrition in Zambia. ‘Quick wins’ for government in 12-18 months
Zambia Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance 2014
Malnutrition in Zambia stands at embarrassingly high levels for a middle-income country, and the persistent rates are undermining social development and national economic growth. This briefing outlines five major p...
Global nutrition report: Actions and accountability to accelerate the world's progress on nutrition
International Food Policy Research Institute 2014
Malnutrition affects one in two people on the planet. Of these, 165 million children under the age of five are estimated to be stunted (i.e. low height for age). Two billion people are estimated to be deficient in one or more micronut...
Turning Rapid Growth into Meaningful Growth: Sustaining the Commitment to Nutrition in Zambia
J. Harris (ed); L. Haddad (ed); S. Seco Grutz (ed) / Institute of Development Studies UK 2014
The articles in this IDS Special Collection describe the nutrition trends in Zambia, highlight some of the factors shaping those trends, and identify and analyse some of the efforts to improve nutrition status. They also draw out some...
Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries
R.E. Black; C.G. Victora; S.P. Walker / The Lancet 2013
Maternal and child undernutrition, including stunting, wasting, and deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals, was the subject of a Series in The Lancet in 2008, which quantified their prevalence, short-term and long-term ...
Can agriculture interventions promote nutrition?
Department for International Development, UK 2014
This evidence paper provides a critical review of the strength and quality of the evidence base linking agriculture-based interventions and nutrition outcomes. In total, 38 studies published over the period 1980-2013 are included: 15 ...
10 Critical Steps to address Child Under-nutrition in Zambia, permanently
Zambia Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance 2013
This brief from the Zambia Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition Alliance (CSO-SUN) outlines recommendations made to the government for the first 100 days for a Successful First 1000 Most Critical Days Programme.   These...
Can interventions in agriculture improve nutrition? - Agri-nutrition.pdf
Department for International Development, UK 2014
This brief summarises evidence from a DFID Evidence Paper: 'Can agriculture interventions promote nutrition?'. The paper provides a critical review of the strength and quality of evidence linking interventions in agriculture wi...