The Time is Right for Biofortification in India – FAO Rep

On the occasion of World Food Day we are pleased to have Mr. Peter Kenmore, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in India, discuss the benefits of biofortified crops to India. Kenmore considers dissemination of biofortified crops an effective strategy in the task of improving nutrition. He thinks now is the time for India to adopt effective strategies like biofortification that will ensure food and nutrition security along with other favorable conditions like price stability and family farming. In this interview, Kenmore discusses “hidden hunger” and the importance of nutritious diet in the first 1,000 days of a child's life. An agriculturist himself, Kenmore applauds the role of HarvestPlus and its partners who believe in combating malnutrition by developing nutritious varieties of staple food crops using conventional breeding methods.

He refers to a recently published nutrition study, which has shown that pearl millet bred to be richer in iron was able to reverse iron deficiency in school-aged children in India within six months. Watch his short interview below.

Iron Beans in East Africa

Rwanda will host the Second Global Conference on Biofortification from March 31 to April 2, 2014.  Farmers in the country have been growing iron beans since 2012, when five varieties were released. To date more than 270,000 Rwandan farming households – or 15 percent of rural farmers in the country – are growing and eating this nutritious crop. Iron bean varieites have also been released in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where 175,000 households are already planting them. In Uganda, where vitamin A orange sweet potato is already widely grown, iron beans have also been introduced.

These countries are all located in sub-Saharan Africa, where iron deficiency is widespread. In the DRC, for example, three-quarters of all children under five lack dietary iron. This means they face increased risk of lowered resistance to disease and impaired learning capacity. Nearly one in three Rwandan children under five is similarly afflicted. Severe anemia, often caused by iron deficiency, increases the risk of women dying in childbirth.

Beans are widely grown and consumed in all three countries.  The iron bean varieties released by HarvestPlus and partners can provide up to 45 percent of daily iron needs -  14 percent more than the commonly grown bean varieties. Fully biofortified beans are ultimately expected to provide up to 60 percent of daily iron needs.  All released iron bean varieties are conventionally bred. Louis Butare, from the Rwanda Agriculture Board, explains the process in this short video:

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More on Iron Beans:

Neil Palmer, On the Trail of DR Congo’s Purple Gorillas
The Sunday Times, ‘Wonder’ Bean Variety Excites Farmers

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Why you should attend the First Global Conference on Biofortification

HarvestPlus Director, Dr. Howarth Bouis, talks about the upcoming Global Conference on Biofortification in Washington D.C. Find out why its important to have this conference now, who should participate, and what he would like it to achieve.