The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), a faith based organisation and a ministry of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), was formed in 1988 to translate into action Christian principles and values in its quest to promote social justice in Zambia. It provides from a faith inspired perspective, a critical understanding of current social, political and economic issues and generates action to address them. Key to its mission is the gathering and analysing of pertinent and topical data on issues, whose results are then employed in popular education and engagement with policy makers, service providers and other duty bearers on the identified issues. Additionally, JCTR builds capacities and creates platforms for community members to participate in dialogue for legislative, policy as well as practical change.
JCTR’s ethos are derived primarily from the Christian faith and its Church Social Teaching (CST), a body of social wisdom derived from the Christian scriptures, the teaching of Popes, theologians and other influential church leaders.
Its mission is outlined in the following statement: “From a faith inspired perspective the JCTR promotes justice for all in Zambia, especially for the poor, through research, education, advocacy and consultations”.
Its vision is: “A just Zambian society guided by faith, where everyone enjoys fullness of life”.
In an attempt to realize its vision, JCTR among other things monitors cost of living through its Basic Needs Basket (BNB); urban and rural as well as Satellite Home Survey and uses the findings to advocate for improved wellbeing of Zambians. On a monthly basis, prices of selected food and non-food items that consist of the BNB are collected from fifteen towns, analysed and disseminated to the public. The BNB information has been used by trade unions in negotiating for living wages for their members and by other stakeholders including Government and other development actors. While Basic Needs Basket tracks the cost of food and non-food items, the Satellite Home Survey which is conducted on a quarterly basis on the other hand assesses people’s capacity to afford the cost of living. The Rural Basic Needs Basket which assesses food and non-food items availability such as social services have been used to advocate for improved provision of social services such as education, health and water in rural areas.
The Basic Needs Basket survey which has been in existence since 1990 has become a flagship of the JCTR and an effective tool for promoting social justice. The Ministry of Labour for instance made use of the Basic Needs Basket data when formulating the minimum wage law. The Basic Needs Basket has also been an effective tool for Civil Society joint budget submissions to Ministry of Finance advocating for Pay As You Earn tax free threshold upward adjustments with Government increasing the threshold to the current K3, 300 per month from K1, 200 in 2012. United Nations Commission for Refugees in Zambia has also used Basic Needs Basket to bench mark its stipends to refugees. JCTR’s work on Basic Needs Basket as it relates to poverty and inequality has endeared the Centre to Government to the extent that JCTR has been invited to sit on a number of technical committees such the Technical Group on Economic Simulations for Poverty, Vulnerability and Inequality by the Ministry of National Development Planning. The Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit under the Office of the Vice President has also enlisted JCTR on its Vulnerability Assessment Committee.
Situational Analysis in the context of Nutrition
Zambia is reported to be one of the 25 African Countries with high burden of under-nutrition (very high stunting rates at >40%) in children under five years of age (Nutrition in the WHO African Region, 2017). Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Programme (WFP) (2014) also ranked Zambia as having the highest levels of malnutrition in Africa and second from the bottom in the World at 48% undernourishment levels, a figure which is projected for 2014 to 2016. Thousands of children suffer from one or more forms of malnutrition, including low birth weight, wasting, stunting, underweight, and multiple micronutrient deficiencies such as vitamin A, Iron, Zinc, and Iodine deficiencies. The 2014 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey further reports that multiple nutrient deficiencies is predominant in most children as opposed to single nutrient deficiency.
This is despite the country recording bumper agriculture harvests in the last few farming seasons and having programmes to fight malnutrition such as MCD Programme, hunger and malnutrition in all its manifestation remains high. IAPRI in its 2016 technical paper partly attributes this mismatch to lack of good information on food consumption at household level. The paper further suggests that in addition to efforts to improve food security and reduce hunger to ensure that children and their families have access to enough diverse and good-quality foods, there is need for child care capacity building programs at community and household level through different Government and non-government interventions.
Project Description and Implementation
JCTR is currently working with the Irish Embassy in Zambia in a project aimed at complementing efforts other partners are putting in place to combat malnutrition by making information available on the availability and affordability of nutritious foods. This will aid consumers on where to buy and what to buy as far as nutritious foods are concerned. The project will also help planners of nutrition interventions by providing necessary information on the availability and affordability of nutritious foods which will enable them make interventions more targeted for better results. It is also worth noting that this project fits well in the current Basic Needs Basket project by providing information on nutritious foods some of which are on the Basic Needs Basket list. While Basic Needs Basket tracks cost of food items, it is not comprehensive enough in terms of nutritious foods and therefore this project will add value to the Basic Needs Basket as it will provide information on more nutritious food items than the current BNB provides.
In the inception year (2018/9), the project begun by making critical partnerships with nutrition actors at national level as well as devising the Nutrition Basket tool. This involved consultancy to develop the nutrition basket, data collection on nutritious food costs, sensitization of data sources and technical review of the NB drafted. Key stakeholders engaged so far have included Government Line Ministries and Agencies (i.e. Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, National Food and Nutrition Commission, Central Statistical Office), Civil Society and Academia (i.e. CSO-SUN, CUTS International, Musika, CARE International, Indaba Agricultural Policy Research institute, the University of Zambia) International Agencies (i.e. World Food Programme through the SUN Business network) as well as communities that provided a basis for the Nutrition Basket. The Nutrition Basket has foods under the categories of cerals and tubers, legumes, animal sourced foods, fruits, vegetables and a few foods that are commonly consumed but do not fall under these groups. It is hoped that the Basket will be launched in July 2019 so that its information can be widely disseminated and used to advocate for policies that support availability and affordability of nutritious foods and aid people in making nutritious food choices. The Centre also completed the Baseline study for the project which will serve as a benchmark for progress made throughout the project cycle.