Stimulating demand for nutritious diverse foods

Woman adding pumpkin pulp to the pan to cook a dish of local fish, pumpkin and rape greens in the Barotse floodplain. (Bioversity International/ E.Hermanowicz)

Woman adding pumpkin pulp to the pan to cook a dish of local fish in the Barotse floodplain. (Bioversity International/ E.Hermanowicz)

In the Barotse floodplain of Zambia, families must migrate each year to farm at higher land as they escape the annual floods of the Zambezi river.

A4NH partner, Bioversity International, in collaboration with the Farming Systems Ecology (FSE) group from Wageningen University and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is looking into the diversity of foods in challenging environments like this one, where preservation methods and seasonal availability of crops can make a huge difference in diets.

In an effort to better understand how traditional recipes can be made more nutritious with locally available ingredients that may differ throughout the year, a range of partners came together to organize the first ‘Barotse Food Fair’ in Mongu, Zambia, bringing together research partners, Ministries, and community members (including Indunas, local leaders in the region) to share knowledge, stimulate demand, and advocate for research and development activities using local diverse nutritious food across the seasons.

Dishes prepared on site for a food fair held in the Barotse floodplain. The food was judged in a competition for the most nutritious dish. (Bioversity International/ E.Hermanowicz)

Dishes prepared on-site for the Barotse food fair were judged in a competition for the most nutritious dish. (Bioversity International/ E.Hermanowicz)

At the fair, ten communities prepared a colorful parade of tasty dishes showcasing the rich diversity of their seasonal food. They not only showcased foods (which attendees could taste for themselves), but participants also shared knowledge and skills in preparing traditional recipes in more nutritious ways – thanks to a participatory research initiative led by Bioversity International and WorldFish to bring local nutritious diversity to the Barotse menu.

Through cooking demonstrations, attendees learned how adding ingredients, such as pounded groundnuts and dried fish to cassava leaves, or adding pumpkin leaves and groundnuts to pumpkin dishes, could enhance nutrition of otherwise simple and less nutritious meals.

At the end of the fair, a judging committee, including representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Food and Nutrition Commission, and Worldfish, declared two winners. But most importantly, everyone attending got the chance to taste and learn about these delicious and nutritious diverse foods from the most remote villages of the floodplain.


Special thank you to Bioversity International's Verena Nowak and Ewa Hermanowicz, in collaboration with Mate Chuma from Worldfish, for their report back from the event. To learn more about this activity and other work on healthy diets and dietary diversity, please visit the original blogpost on the Bioversity International website.