AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture Meets with HarvestPlus

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Her Excellency Tumusiime Rhoda Peace, AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture recently received Dr. Howarth Bouis, Director of Harvest Plus and Dr. Anna-Marie Ball the Head of Africa Strategic Alliances, Harvest Plus to discuss scaling up biofortification in Africa at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on April 27.

Commissioner Tumusiime applauded HarvestPlus’ accomplishments in breeding and producing biofortified food crops and seed varieties, which are contributing to improving nutrition and reducing ‘hidden hunger’ among rural, poor communities in Africa.

She pledged her support to HarvestPlus within her portfolio at the AU and her membership on the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

The Commissioner encouraged HarvestPlus to continue to strongly advocate and promote biofortified crops for poor farmers.

Read the Full Press Release Here.

Uganda’s Speaker of the Parliament Launches Up-scaling of Orange Sweet Potato

From left to right; Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of Parliament of Uganda, Dr. Goretti Semakula, a researcher based at NARO, Ms. Jo LEsser-Oltheten, USAID's Director of Economic Growth, and Ms. Sylvia Magezi, the Country Manager of HarvestPlus

HarvestPlus recently launched the up-scaling of orange sweet potato in Uganda at an event marked by participation of key partners and dignitaries. The event was launched under the theme, “Biofortification: A new way to reduce micronutrient deficiencies.”

Uganda’s Speaker of the Parliament, Ms. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga participated in this launch event on February 11, 2015. She said,

“Let me take this opportunity to officially launch the scaling of the orange sweet potato in Uganda and recommend it to farmers, agricultural extension advisors and the general public.”

 The Speaker was the official guest of honor for the HarvestPlus launch event.

The OSP project is targeted to reduce Vitamin A deficiency, which has affected 33% of children and 35% of women in Uganda. This deficiency is known to cause eye damage, measles and diarrheal diseases in children. Ms. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga emphasized the critical role of Vitamin A orange sweet potato to improve nutrition and promote better health conditions. She also acknowledged the importance of the scaling up of OSP and applauded HarvestPlus’ initiative in Uganda.

The event was well attended by HarvestPlus and its key partners such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID is now funding efforts to provide 285,000 Ugandan farming households with orange sweet potato, as part of the US Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future. The event also attracted wide local support from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), many farmers’ organizations and schools in Uganda.

The launch event was featured in a special report in “The Nutritionist” magazine. The benefits of the orange sweet potato project was covered by one of the popular TV stations of Uganda as a prime time show.

HarvestPlus Director Speaks on the Power of Biofortification at SAIS

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Dr. Howarth Bouis

HarvestPlus Director Howarth Bouis gave a talk on “The Power of Biofortification” at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC on March 3. This event was part of the Global Issues in Agriculture Speaker series organized by SAIS, a top graduate school that focuses on international affairs, economics, diplomacy, and policy research and education.

THEME: Better Crops, Better Nutrition: the Power of Biofortification
DATE: March 3, 2015
TIME: 4:30PM – 6:00PM
VENUE: Rome Auditorium

A link to the video of the presentation can be found here. 

Connecting Farmers to Markets: A New Report from World Food Programme

The World Food Programme (WFP) has just released a new report: The P4P story – Connecting farmers to markets.

Purchase for Progress (P4P) is a five year pilot project of the WFP that has transformed the lives of smallholder farmers in 20 developing countries.

According to the report, P4P links WFP’s demand for staple food commodities, such as cereals and pulses, with the technical expertise of a wide range of partners. This collaboration provides smallholders with the skills and knowledge to improve their agricultural production, and an incentive to do so, as they have an assured market in which to sell their surplus crops. The successes of farmers, governments and other WFP partners have enjoyed by working together is highlighted.

The report also notes HarvestPlus’ role in increasing the availability of biofortified crops to small holder farmers who are most challenged by malnutrition in countries such as Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia. In these countries, P4P affiliated smallholder farmers started to grow iron beans, vitamin A sweet potato, and vitamin A maize respectively.

 “Smallholders are participating in seed multiplication activities, growing the biofortified crops and selling part of their produce back to HarvestPlus for redistribution, while retaining a portion of the household consumption.”

The WFP has also released a corresponding technical report Purchase for Progress (P4P) – Reflections on the pilot.

Ken Davies, P4P Global Coordinator, spoke about WFP’s collaboration with HarvestPlus while at the 2nd Global Conference on Biofortification: “Getting Nutritious Foods to People” in Kigali, Rwanda

Global Panel Launches New Policy Brief on Biofortification

The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition has just released a new policy brief focused on biofortification. Titled Biofortification: An Agricultural Investment for Nutrition, the brief urges policymakers to adopt biofortification as a “nutrient-sensitive national agricultural research and investment strategy.”

It includes technical evidence on the nutritional benefits of biofortified crops, particularly for children and women from rural populations in low and middle-income countries where micronutrient deficiencies (or ‘hidden hunger’) are prevalent. It also highlights some of the biofortified crops that have been released to date and are being grown by farmers in 27 developing countries. Such crops include vitamin A orange sweet potato, cassava, and maize, zinc rice and wheat, and iron beans and pearl millet.

Moreover, the brief showcases Nigeria as a successful example of a developing country whose government has embraced biofortification among strategies to improve nutrition and food security. Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Dr. Akinwumi Adesina is a strong advocate of expanding access to biofortified crops. “The challenge is no longer the science for biofortification—we know it works; our challenge as policymakers is to scale up biofortified crops to reach millions of households through institutional, regulatory and financial policy,” he stated at a major conference last year.

The Global Panel’s policy brief encourages policymakers to adopt biofortification as an important element among a suite of complementary strategies to reduce micronutrient deficiencies. It concludes with a list of recommendations for scaling up biofortification, a theme that the Panel previously addressed during the Second Global Conference on Biofortification in Kigali, Rwanda, last year.

The policy brief was launched at an event hosted by the United Kingdom’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development.

Mapping for Investments in Biofortification: HarvestPlus Launches Interactive New Tool

BPI_mainA new, interactive online tool is now available to guide stakeholders in deciding where, and in which biofortified crops, to invest. The Biofortification Priority Index (BPI), which focuses on three micronutrients—iron, vitamin A, and zinc—allows users to search and sort through three easy-to-use drop down menus, with results displayed on a color-coded map according to crop, region, and priority for investment.

The BPI will be useful to stakeholders in making investment decisions on biofortification that will have the highest pay off in reducing micronutrient deficiencies. It comes at a time when biofortification is attracting increased recognition as a viable strategy to improve the nutritional status of populations dependent on staple food crops for sustenance. Many national nutrition and agricultural policies now integrate biofortification, while several countries and organizations have committed to supporting the scaling up and delivery of biofortified crops following the Second Global Conference on Biofortification in 2014.

More detailed explanations about the data and methodology behind the BPI are available in the full HarvestPlus Working Paper on which the tool is based.

Countries Endorse Biofortification at ICN2 in Rome

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Delegates at ICN2 in Rome, Italy, November 19-21, 2014. Photo: FAO

The recently concluded Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in Rome, Italy, identified utrition-sensitive agriculture as one of the priorities in the quest to end global hunger and malnutrition by 2025. Delegates, including high-level representatives from Bangladesh, Malawi, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Uganda highlighted biofortification among strategies to achieve that goal.Scaling up access to biofortified nutritious foods for more people globally has become a major objective of governments and organizations following the Second Global Conference on Biofortification in Kigali, Rwanda, earlier this year.

A number of countries have already identified biofortification as a key component of their nutrition strategies, and others are taking the lead in developing biofortified crops. These crops are conventionally bred to be rich in micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc. More than two billion people globally still lack one or more of these essential micronutrients in their diets, increasing their risk of physical and cognitive impairment, and susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Bangladesh, for example, has released the country’s first zinc-biofortified rice variety, and orange sweet potato has been developed and locally adapted by the International Potato Center, Bangladeshi Minister of Agriculture Matia Chowdhury revealed to ICN2 delegates. Both the leaves and the roots of orange sweet potato provide vitamin A, which is good for the eyes and helps the body fight disease, she noted. In Pakistan, the Government supports biofortified high-zinc wheat, said Rizwan Bashir Khan, Leader of the Pakistan delegation.

Many African countries, including Nigeria, have released biofortified nutritious crops to farmers. “Biofortification must be vigorously supported within the broader context of promoting a diversified and healthy food base for improved nutrition,” urged Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in his remarks at the conference. Noting that Nigeria has "taken a lead on policies for biofortification in Africa", Dr. Adesina estimated that 80 million Nigerians will have access to biofortified vitamin A cassava over the next four years.

Countries like Uganda, which have adopted biofortified crops, see expanding access to these crops as critical to addressing malnutrition. “Some agencies are promoting biofortified foods like beans, maize, rice, millet and orange sweet potatoes rich in micronutrients, but this is not on a large scale,” Uganda’s Minister of State for Health, Sarah Achieng Opendi, told ICN2 participants. “We need to embrace such tested and approved technologies and scale them up in our countries if we are to avert the issues of malnutrition, especially hidden hunger.”

Also expressing support for biofortification was the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, which launched its first technical brief at ICN2. The brief calls for agricultural policies that encourage “plant breeding research that improves the levels of nutrients in cereals and other staple crops, often called biofortification.”

ICN2, which brought together representatives from more than 170 governments as well as from civil society and business culminated in the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action. These conference outcomes commit world leaders to establish national policies aimed at eradicating malnutrition and transforming food systems to make nutritious diets available to all.

Rwandan Music Stars Unite to Promote Iron Beans

During the Second Global Conference on Biofortification in Kigali, Rwanda, delegates saw firsthand iron beans growing in the field.  Released by the Rwandan Government in 2011, these nutritious varieties of Rwanda’s favorite staple food are currently being planted by more than 700,000 farmers across the country. Now, a campaign utilizing the power of popular music expects to get even more Rwandans planting and eating iron beans. Five of the country’s top musicians joined hands to release a catchy music video featuring iron beans to promote better nutrition and health. Click here to learn more about the campaign.

Music video with Kiswahili subtitles: http://bit.ly/EatHealthyBeansSwahili  and www.swahiliwood.com/maharagwe

Out Now: Second Global Biofortification Conference Report

The final report of the Second Global Conference on Biofortification, which was held in Rwanda earlier this year, is now available. Themed “Getting Nutritious Foods to People”, this global consultation brought together some 300 high-level participants drawn from government, business and the private sector. The conference report highlights key outcomes, including progress and lessons learned in developing and delivering biofortified nutritious crops, and partnerships and commitments in scaling up biofortification. Also available now is The Kigali Declaration, a major outcome of the conference, reflecting the priorities and commitments of international leaders to end hunger and malnutrition in our lifetime.

New Progress Briefs on Biofortification

HarvestPlus has released a set of briefs on progress to date in biofortification. These briefs present: the status of crop development; evidence on nutrition, consumer acceptance, and cost-effectiveness; and, crop delivery experiences. Readers interested in learning more about these topics can follow the references to journal articles and working papers that underpin many of the briefs.

“Anybody who is interested in biofortification will appreciate how useful and timely the progress briefs are,” says HarvestPlus Director Howarth Bouis. “Whether you are a researcher or a practitioner, these briefs will bring you up to speed on evidence, accomplishments and challenges associated with biofortification.”

The progress briefs update the "Ideas Lab Briefs" that were very well received at the Second Global Conference on Biofortification in Kigali, Rwanda, earlier this year. They should be of interest to a variety of audiences, and can be accessed here.