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

Global Panel Discusses Collaboration to Reach More People with Nutritious Foods

At the recently concluded Second Global Conference on Biofortification in Kigali, Rwanda, a panel of eminent stakeholders deliberated on how to scale up the delivery of biofortified nutritious foods in order to improve nutrition and health for millions more people around the world. The session was convened by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition. World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte moderated the discussion. The panelist were:

Dr. Akin Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development for Nigeria;
Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, the Minister of Health for Rwanda;
Dr. Ruben Echeverria, the Director-General of CIAT;
Jonathan Shrier, the Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security at the US State Department;
Tim Wheeler, the Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor at the UK Department for International Development (DfID).

 

“Biofortification One of the Best Ways to Spend Public Money”

In a video address to participants at the Global Consultation on ‘Getting Nutritious Foods to People’, Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, Director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center said that “biofortification is one of the best ways to spend public money.” Biofortification has been on the radar of the Consensus - made up of a panel of distinguished economists - since 2008.   In 2012, addressing micronutrient malnutrition remained at the top of their list; as the challenge that would yield the highest return on investment of public funds.

Biofortification is a strategy of developing more nutritious food crops that can provide valuable vitamins and minerals through the diet. Many crops that are rich in critical nutrients are now available to farmers around the world and offer a new approach to improving people’s health. Every $1 invested in biofortification yields about $17 “of good in the world,” said Lomborg. Watch the full video below.

Nigeria Determined to be Largest Producer of Nutritious Crops, Says Dr. Adesina

Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, yesterday highlighted the disconnect between rising global wealth and persistent poverty - an underlying cause of poor nutrition. “People eat food, not GDP (Gross Domestic Product),” he emphasized in a rousing keynote address at the end of Day Two of the "Global Consultation on Getting Nutritious Foods to People." Globally recognized for his efforts in improving African agriculture through innovative technology, Dr. Adesina pledged his determination to “make Nigeria the largest grower of biofortified crops.” Watch the short video below for highlights of his speech:

“Our Time is Now” – Key Speakers at Global Consultation on Nutritious Foods

 

On the first day of the Second Global Conference on Biofortification, key speakers underscored the timeliness of biofortification as a nutrition and public health strategy. “Our time is now,” declared Rwandan Prime Minister Dr. Pierre Habumuremyi to a nearly 300-strong audience of high-level stakeholders invited to deliberate on strategies to get nutritious foods to more people globally.

The urgency of the Prime Minister’s call is borne out by statistics on hidden hunger. This is the condition in which a lack of critical micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals in diets leaves people at increased risk of illness, blindness, premature death, reduced productivity, and impaired mental development. Nearly one in three people globally suffers from hidden hunger, but women and children are especially vulnerable.

Highlighting the role of agriculture and food as the primary sources of minerals and vitamins that people need to be healthy, Dr. Howarth Bouis, the Director of HarvestPlus, argued that “providing good nutrition and health must be a primary - if not THE primary - function of agriculture.” HarvestPlus, which leads a global partnership to develop and disseminate nutrient-rich (biofortified) crops, has already rolled out several staple food crops that are conventionally bred to contain more vitamin A, iron or zinc. These are the micronutrients that the World Health Organization considers to be most limiting in diets globally.

Dr. Bouis’ key message? “Biofortified, nutrient-rich staple food crops are ready for scaling up.” These crops (orange sweet potato, maize and cassava rich in vitamin A; beans and pearl millet rich in iron; and, rice rich in zinc) have already been released to farmers in eight target countries in Africa and South Asia.

“This is an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come with biofortification,” stated Dr. Chris Elias, President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The number of farming households we have begun to reach is a great start,” he told the conference participants, but stressed that more can be done to reach every child with the vitamins and minerals needed to lead healthy and productive lives.

In a panel discussion organized by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Improved Nutrition, participants reflected on the role of policymakers in the quest for increased delivery of nutritious food crops globally. Boitshepo Giyose, a Senior Food and Nutrition Security Advisor to the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) neatly summed up the discussion: “It is now beyond policymaking and into implementation and action, action.”

That clarion call prompted an important announcement from a major stakeholder. Frank Rijsberman, the CEO of the CGIAR Consortium to which HarvestPlus belongs, revealed that the constituent centers had committed to mainstreaming breeding for vitamin and mineral traits into conventional food crop development programs.

The CGIAR Consortium statement in full.

View photos from Day One of the conference, and follow Day Two proceedings online via live webcast.

Rwanda PM Officially Opens Global Consultation on Nutritious Foods

Rwandan Prime Minister Dr. Pierre Habumuremyi today officially opened the Second Global Conference on Biofortification in Kigali with a call to participants to use their unique strengths and capacities to expand delivery of nutritious crops. Nearly 300 experts  from the agriculture, nutrition and public health sectors are participating in this three-day global consultation hosted by the Government of Rwanda in collaboration with HarvestPlus.  Citing the success of iron beans, which is now being grown and eaten by more than 700,000 Rwandan farmers, Dr. Habumuremyi referenced his government's "well defined path to make food and nutrition a priority" by integrating them into the country's agricultural policies. Watch the short video below for highlights of the Prime Minister's speech:

The conference is being streamed live at live.rwandaevents.com.

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

What is Biofortification?

Getting critical micronutrients (the vitamins and minerals that people need for good health) to the two billion people who lack them has never been more feasible – or tasty – than it is now.

>> Read more

Will Biofortification Work?

As a new strategy in the global campaign to reduce micronutrient deficiencies, breeding nutritious staple food crops (biofortification) and getting them to millions of people worldwide is no longer just an idea; some half a million people are already planting or eating such crops, be it iron beans, vitamin A orange sweet potato, maize or cassava in Africa, or iron pearl millet in India.

Biofortification seeks to provide, through the foods that people eat regularly, the vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) that are essential to a healthy life. Without these micronutrients, people are less likely to reach their full potential. Micronutrient deficiencies can impair the mental and physical development of infant children and adolescents, resulting in lower IQ, stunting, and even blindness. They also reduce the productivity of adult men and women due to increased risk of illness and reduced work capacity. This condition, also known as hidden hunger, affects one in three people globally.

Howarth Bouis is the director of HarvestPlus, a global program to develop and disseminate biofortified crops. In this short video, Bouis answers three questions that need to be asked--and answered-- if biofortification is to be an effective strategy to improve nutrition and public health:

A Global Policy Consultation on ‘Getting Nutritious Foods to People’, Why Now?

HarvestPlus leads a global effort to improve nutrition and public health by developing and disseminating staple food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals. In recent years, several nutritious biofortified crops have been released in eight different countries with promising results. >> Read more