© Yusuf Msafiri

Nutritious food instead of just enough to eat – even in cities

© Yusuf Msafiri

Like many secondary cities, the city of Mbeya in southern Tanzania is an important hub in the food system of the region. This is where people, goods, capital and information connect, not only with the surrounding rural and peri-urban areas, but also with other cities and global food markets. Mbeya is a fast-growing city, and the population is widely spread across the valley. Helvetas is helping them keep pace with development.

  • Project Name
    IC4N - Inclusive Cities for Nutrition
  • Project Phase
    2022 to 2025
  • Funding
    City of Zurich, Donations from Foundations and private donors
  • Thematic focus
    Urban Engagement
    Food & Nutrition

Food insecurity despite a good climate

Despite its fertile agricultural soils, Mbeya struggles to provide its inhabitants with good food. In addition, the city needs to implement a nutritional strategy that gives everyone, especially the most vulnerable, adequate access to food and a sustainable, healthy diet – which is a challenge.

31.5% of children in Mbeya are affected by chronic malnutrition, despite the city being one of the largest food producers in the country and home to a variety of fruits, birds and animals. However, even when the population has enough to eat – quantitatively speaking – people often eat an unbalanced diet because they either lack the money and time or the knowledge about nutritious food.

To make food security a higher priority on the development agenda, the entire food value chain is considered. This is known as the food system approach. This makes it possible to determine which adjustments need to be made so that the growing population can be sustainably fed.

Vendor at the Soweto Market in Mbeya, Tanzania. The Mbeya region is an important hub for food, including to the border regions of neighboring countries.
The main aim of the project is to ensure that people not only get enough to eat, but also eat a healthy diet.
In order to achieve an intact food system with all its stakeholders - producers, traders, sellers, transporters, etc. - Helvetas also works together with the city administration.

Nutrition from production to transportation to consumption

Helvetas supports the Mbeya municipal administration in better recognizing the city's entire food system and clarifying questions such as: Where is which food grown and by whom? How is the food processed and handled? Who eats what and why? And what influence does the local government have here, and what should it do? It is also about the city of Mbeya better understanding its role in this system and being able to develop a clear strategy for the food system. This includes, for example, the city administration promoting climate-adapted agriculture and healthy eating – in the private sector, but also in public institutions such as schools and school canteens.

Through workshops organized by Helvetas, the population learns which foods are healthy and important for a balanced diet. And they learn how to prepare them.

«The pupils are agents of change. If they are convinced that a healthy diet is important, they will bring this knowledge home and demand for healthy food.»

Agnes Mahembe, nutritionist and project officer of IC4N

Cooperation with Zurich and Mbeya in Bangladesh

To achieve this goal, we are also promoting cooperation between the cities of Zurich and Mbeya. This city-to-city cooperation promotes the exchange of knowledge and collaboration on specific projects. Thanks to a monitoring system, the individual aspects of a food system such as production, transportation, storage, preparation and more are to be permanently safeguarded. At a political level, the city cooperation receives support from the cities’ mayors.

In addition to Mbeya, the IC4N initiative is also being implemented in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, enabling a South-South learning process. Best practices from both cities will be shared and both projects will therefore also contribute to global joint learning on urban food systems.

The two mayors of Cox's Bazar (2nd from left) and Mbeya (3rd from left) work closely with Helvetas and, in a city cooperation, with the city of Zurich. During their visit to Switzerland, they visited food-related initiatives, including the Food Safe Market with Anna Schindler, Director of Urban Development of Zurich.