Emelda Ngwarati, a farmer who grows vitamin A-biofortified orange maize and iron-biofortified beans in Mazowe District, Zimbabwe, claimed the top prize for her harvest at this year’s Zimbabwe Agricultural Show. The President of Zimbabwe, His Excellency Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, was on hand to present her with a trophy. 

Ngwarati grows vitamin A orange maize and irons beans both for sale and for household consumption. She has been growing biofortified crops since 2018, when they were first introduced in Mazowe District through the Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food security Programme (LFSP). The United Kingdom government through the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), funds the program. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and Palladium manage LFSP, whilst HarvestPlus is the programme technical partner on biofortification.

At the show, Ngwarati displayed 26 crops, including vitamin A orange maize (variety ZS242A) and iron beans (variety NUA45). The orange maize variety was categorized under yellow maize, since the Show Society has yet to adopt standards that differentiate yellow and orange varieties in the competition. Judges commented that Ngwarati’s harvest was an outstanding example of varieties with exceptional color and quality.

The 110th show was held from Oct. 28-31 under the theme “Synergies for Growth-Cooperate. Collaborate. Complement”. The show is one of the premier platforms for facilitating agricultural development in the country.

The Zimbabwe Agricultural Show Society (ZAS), with support from other companies, focuses on helping smallholder farmers who bring in their various crops and produce to display at this highly celebrated event. 

Zimbabwe’s President handed Ngwarati the Agri-produceSection 2020 Overall Prize, which was courtesy of Agri Seeds. In addition, Ngwarati received a solar pump, a 5000-liter water tank, and a borehole drilling at her homestead courtesy of the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.

“I could not believe my ears when I heard my name being called out. I am so happy with my achievement, I will not stop growing orange maize because I am a living testimony of its benefits,” said Ngwarati. 

“Apart from getting these awards today, I have also been able to live a happy and healthy life with my family through eating food crops rich in vitamins and minerals,” she added.

A local champion for biofortification

Ngwarati was an early adopter of biofortified crops, and she was chosen to become a Community Based Mobiliser (CBM) in her ward. CBMs disseminate nutrition and production messages as well as promote consumption of biofortified foods in their communities. They work as biofortification ambassadors and peer trainers. Their main role is farmer mobilization for various biofortification activities, farmer training, and local level advocacy.

The vitamin A in the orange maize grown by Ngwarati aids in maintaining healthy skin, good vision, and a strong immune system. These biofortified varieties are high-yielding in addition to being tolerant to heat, drought, and disease. Vitamin A deficiency lowers immunity, impairs vision, and may lead to blindness and even death. About 36 percent of Zimbabwean children under five are estimated to be vitamin A deficient.

HarvestPlus Zimbabwe works with more than 30 partners in government, business, and civil society to improve nutrition and public health by promoting varieties of vitamin A-rich maize and orange sweet potato, and iron-rich beans. More than 300,000 farming households in Zimbabwe now grow and consume biofortified crops.