2015: A Productive Year for Biofortified Crops

Biofortified crops enjoyed a very productive 2015. At the close of the year, nearly 3 million farming households in target countries in Africa and Asia were growing and eating these nutritious staple food crops. Read more about how farmers and their families are reaping the benefits.

 

Stakeholders Meet to Appraise Brazil’s Biofortification Program

Foto 2_Crédito para Tarcila Viana

Photo credit: Tarcila Viana

Stakeholders in Brazil’s biofortification program met in Rio de Janeiro last week to take stock of progress in promoting the development, adoption, and consumption of biofortified crops. The 5th National Biofortification Meeting took place October 13-15 in Rio de Janeiro, bringing together, among others, experts from HarvestPlus, CIAT, ICRISAT, the US Department of Agriculture, the International Union of Food Science and Technology, Cornell University, and Nestlé.

Brazil remains a global leader in national ownership of biofortification, and has released several biofortified crops to farmers, including vitamin A sweet potato, cassava and maize, iron and zinc cowpeas, and iron beans. Biofortified foods have also been included as part of school meals in some states.

HarvestPlus applauded achievements in creating demand for biofortified crops and expanding the reach of these nutritious crops in the northeast region of Brazil, but also identified areas for improvement, such as increasing the rate of voluntary purchases of seed and creating public and social policies on biofortification.

Yery Mendoza, a researcher from Nestlé, expressed confidence in the sustainability of biofortification given the demand potential resulting from increasing pouplation growth, predicting that "it is only a matter of time before biofortified foods reach commercial scale production.” Mendoza noted that Nestlé, and the private sector in general, would play crucial roles in bringing nutritious foods to the table, and creating secure supply chains.

The meeting was organized by the BioFORT Network, which leads the Brazilian biofortification program under the national Agricultural Research Corporation, Embrapa. Marilia Nutti, who heads the BioFORT Network in addition to HarvestPlus’ Latin America and Caribbean program, underscored the importance of learning from other countries’ successes and expriences. She cited Rwanda, where HarvestPlus and partners have reached more than half a million farming households with iron beans.

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.

Dietary Diversity and Biofortification: Closer Than You Think

Women and biodiversitySome 2 billion people suffer from hidden hunger caused by infections and diets lacking in essential micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc. This is particularly the case in the developing world, where diets mainly consist of starchy staples and not enough nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans and pulses, and animal source foods.

But what if those food staples that people eat regularly were made to work toward better nutrition? And how does that fit with the need for dietary diversification? This first in a new series of policy briefs explains the link between biofortification and dietary diversity.

HarvestPlus Shares Insights on Biofortification at Clinton Global Initiative

From left to right: Sylvia Magezi (HarvestPlus Country Manager in Uganda), Marcus Samuelsson (celebrity chef and restaurateur)

HarvestPlus joined scores of organizations in New York City last week at the 11th Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative to discuss and share ideas to improve the world. Director Howarth Bouis and HarvestPlus Uganda Country Manager Sylvia Magezi both participated.

As part of the panel for a breakout session titled “Starting the Food Chain with Nutrition” on September 28, Magezi shared insights from HarvestPlus’ work in promoting vitamin A orange sweet potato and iron beans in Uganda. She also highlighted the global momentum of biofortification, noting the growing number of governments and organizations that have adopted biofortified crops. “Strategic partnerships are the way to go to reach the billion people [that HarvestPlus expects to benefit from biofortified crops by 2030],” Magezi emphasized.

The panel was moderated by Kathy Spahn, who leads Hellen Keller International, one of HarvestPlus’ major partners in promoting biofortification. A recording of the full session is available here.

Participants at the CGI got a chance to taste vitamin A corn, which was included in the lunch menu. HarvestPlus is promoting this biofortified maize variety in Zambia, where it was recently launched for commercial sale across the country.

The CGI was established in 2005 by former US President Bill Clinton and is an initiative of the Clinton Foundation. It brings together global leaders to discuss innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

 

 

Updated Map Shows Biofortification’s Growing Global Reach

Crops Map InforgraphicNearly 50 countries are now growing or testing biofortified crops, demonstrating the global momentum to promote these nutritious staple crops to more farmers and consumers. At the Second Global Conference on Biofortification (GCOBII) last year, participants committed to scaling up biofortified crops. Since then, five more countries have released nutritious crops, and an additional eight countries are evaluating them prior to release to farmers. Read more

 

 

Deadline Extended! WHO Calls for Biofortification Researchers

WHO2The World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ specialized agency responsible for international public health, has announced a special consultation on biofortified crops to be held on April 5-8, 2016 in New York City. Co-convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Sackler Institute of Nutrition Science, the gathering will focus on “staple crops biofortified with increased micronutrient content for improving vitamin and mineral status in populations.” WHO expects that the results of the consultation will inform its work to develop global guidelines on fortification of staple foods with vitamins and minerals as a public health strategy.

In preparation for the event, WHO has issued a call for authors who are interested in preparing review papers related to various aspects of biofortified staple crops, such as breeding, consumption, adoption, and bioavailability, among others. Researchers working independently or as teams can submit their letters of interest by sending an email to WHO at nutrition@who.int no later than July 31, 2015. WHO will provide financial support for selected authors following its standard procedures for completing this work. Commissioned authors will be expected to present their work at the consultation in New York, and peer-reviewed papers will be published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science.

More information on the call for authors is available here.

 

 

 

 

Scaling up Biofortification: Better Crops, Better Nutrition Webinar Invite

Photo Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Photo Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Please join us for a live seminar, brought to you by the USAID Bureau For Food Security, on Scaling Up Biofortification: Better Crops, Better Nutrition.  This event will be held at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 online. To register for the webinar, please follow this link. Find out more about this special event here.

Speakers: Dr. Howarth Bouis, Director, HarvestPlus; Dr. Anna-Marie Ball, Manager of Partnerships and Strategic Alliances, HarvestPlus

Biofortification is a cost-effective, innovative approach to growing staple crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals. Dr. Howarth Bouis will discuss the nutritional benefits of biofortified food crops and their adoption by farmers and consumers in developing countries. Dr. Anna-Marie Ball, who led the USAID-funded orange-fleshed sweet potato program in Uganda and now heads HarvestPlus’ regional advocacy and partnership activities, will provide perspectives from the field, including those of government, the private sector, civil society, farmers, and consumers.

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.