HIVOS Sustainable Diets Regional Advocacy Manager William Chilufya says there is need to make local food sexy by improving its packaging.

In an interview after hosting government officials, parliamentarians and delegates from various districts in Lusaka, Wednesday, Chilufya observed that most citizens failed to appreciate local cuisine because the packaging was not attractive and there wasn’t enough investment in marketing it.

He insisted that for Zambians to move away from maize dependency, there was need to invest in marketing alternative foods and making them attractive.

“The national food and nutrition commission has clearly said that one of the causes of malnutrition in this country is because of we are depending on one type of food. So this event here is also promoting a variety of foods so that as a human being, you have access to different nutrients. And it also helps us to through this event that we shouldn’t look too far for good food but also from within. One thing that we also need to do is we have to go into food preservation and we really have to address the packaging of foods. We really have to make our local foods sexy so that they should be appealing to a number of people, the youths, the children and the adults,” Chilufya said.

“The Ministry of Health has what they call a Social Determinant Department. So this department looks at the welfare in terms of diet. I think they are about to start taxing the bad foods. So our issue is, could the money realized out of taxing bad foods be channeled towards marketing healthy local foods? We really have to make sure that our local foods are packaged in a way that they are very attractive.”

He said there was need to encourage drying and preservation of certain foods, like mangoes, which were seasonal.

“The other challenge that we have is that our local foods most of them are seasonal but we also need to ensure that they are preserved such that if we have plenty of mangoes today, that mango shouldn’t give us cholera at the end of the day but we should ensure that we preserve those mangoes, we stop importing some of those juices that we are importing in this country but rather create jobs in this country and ensure that we start processing those mangoes. So without preservation techniques and all, it will be very difficult for us to get over or fight these fast foods that are coming up,” said Chilufya.

“We realize that in this country, slowly our traditional foods which are really important part of our diet are slowly getting into extinction. So as Hivos, what we have done is to document these traditional foods and publicize them because we have realized that without documenting these foods as part of our culture, it’s a bit of a problem in terms of preserving knowledge for tomorrow. So the promotion of these local foods is part of Hivos’ efforts to try and contribute to a healthy Zambia. You are aware that this country has a lot of malnutrition. Our children under the age of five, 40 per cent of them are stunted and this is a very high number. It also has implications in the future of our leadership in this country as you know that malnutrition affects the brain development. So if we have children whose brain are not fully developed, then of course our leadership in this country going forward will really be questioned.”

In attendance were representatives from the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, Kafue member of parliament Mirriam Chonya and Party for National Unity leader Highvie Hamududu.