A Sustainable Solution to Zinc Deficiency
Greg Brouwer, Director of the Zinc Nutrient Initiative and Dr. Andrew Green, Director of Environment and Sustainability at the International Zinc Association, discuss the importance of zinc fertilizers with fertilizer retailers in rural India.
Zinc is required in trace quantities in the human diet, essential to many aspects of our health, including growth, skin, eyesight, bones, digestion, reproduction and the immune system. One-third of the world’s population is estimated to be at risk from zinc deficiency and the related disorders result in the deaths of up to 800,000 people annually. Children in the developing world are particularly vulnerable and up 450,000 children under the age of five die each year as a consequence.
As one of the world’s largest producers of zinc, we have the resources to help address the problem of global zinc deficiency. Our efforts are primarily directed through the International Zinc Association (IZA), an organization dedicated to the growth and protection of global zinc markets. As an active member of the IZA, we are helping to implement a sustainable solution to the problem of zinc deficiency. Our CEO and current IZA Chairman Donald Lindsay, has encouraged and promoted the IZA’s long term strategy of combating zinc deficiency through the use of zinc fertilizers to improve the yield and nutritional status of crops, coupled with a short term strategy of making therapeutic zinc treatments and zinc dietary supplements directly available to those most in need.
We are committed to using our resources to contribute to both strategies. One of our employees is currently on secondment to the IZA as the Director of the Zinc Nutrient Initiative. The Zinc Nutrient Initiative promotes the global use of zinc fertilizers with the aim of increasing crop yields and improving the health of the people eating those crops. Greg Brouwer, Director of the Zing Nutrient Initiative said, “The combination of increased yields and increased nutritional status makes the use of zinc fertilizers a sustainable, long-term solution to global zinc deficiency. Farmers benefit from the increased crop yields, governments benefit from enhanced food security, zinc producers benefit from an expanded market and people benefit from improved human health, which will in turn save hundreds of thousands of lives.”
In order to achieve these goals, farmers need to embrace the use of zinc fertilizers globally. Engagement with a wide variety of Communities of Interest (CoIs) is required, including farmers, fertilizer producers and distributors as well as government agencies. Collaboration among these CoI groups is also essential for the success of the initiative, one example being government agricultural subsidization to encourage the use of zinc fertilizers.
In order to help address zinc deficiency in the short term, the IZA has also formed a unique partnership with UNICEF, a humanitarian and developmental assistance organization for children. The Zinc Saves Kids initiative is focused upon fundraising for global UNICEF programs providing zinc supplements for children. We kicked off the Zinc Saves Kids fundraising campaign with a $1.66 million donation in January 2010.