Malawi Government says it is concerned about the deficiency of zinc micro-nutrient in the country’s soils which it says is culminating in most Malawians being stunted in their growth.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Ulemu Chilapondwa expressed the worry in Lilongwe on Wednesday during a dissemination workshop of study results of a Zinc Project conducted by the African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) in collaboration with the Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS).
The results of the project, conducted for the past two years, have proven that use of Zinc fortified fertilisers increased maize yields.
“It should be pointed out that these zinc deficiencies are not a concern only for the health sector but the agriculture sector as well,” bemoaned Chilapondwa.
He said most soils from which the food crops are grown have become depleted of zinc.
Chilapondwa cited recent studies conducted by his ministry which he said indicate that 33 percent of arable land in samples collected across the country is below the critical threshold value of one milligramme zinc per kilogramme by 1997.
“Everyone needs zinc. While children need it for growth, adult need it for health. Zinc is an essential trace element for both plant and animal kingdom,” said the minister.
Chilapondwa explained that zinc plays a crucial role in body organs, tissues, bones, fluids and cells adding that the nutrient is also important for fertility, immune system, taste, smell, skin and appetite.
He said micronutrient deficiency is affecting children in Malawi greatly, saying as of today 47 percent of children in Malawi are stunted due to, among others, poor diets.
The minister also said zinc deficiency not only contributes to stunting but also impaired cognitive development, among others.
“I, therefore, encourage stakeholders, including the fertiliser companies, researchers together with our colleagues in the ministry of health to work together to use zinc fortified fertilisers,” added the minister.
On her part, AICC executive director Daisy Kambalame said the zinc analysis was aimed at demonstrating the importance of zinc in improving crop
health, yield, performance and quality.