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.

 

 

Strengthening Links Between Nutrition, Health Outcomes, and Agricultural Research

12571The June issue of the journal Food Security featured a special section: Strengthening the links between nutrition and health outcomes and agricultural research. This special section looks beyond production and consumption within farming households; it explores how to increase access to, and impact of, nutritious, safe and sustainably-produced food through markets, food environments, and enabling policy. It includes a synthesis paper on consumer acceptance of biofortified crops in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Co-authored by HarvestPlus Head of Impact Research Ekin Birol, “…the studies summarized here revealed that biofortified foods are liked by target consumers, in some cases even in the absence of information about their nutritional benefits, though information and awareness campaigns often have an important role to play.” This synthesis and all the other papers in the special section of the Food Security journal are freely accessible through the Secure Nutrition platform.

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.

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.

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

Policymakers to Meet in Kigali on Getting Nutritious Foods to People

On March 31, more than 275 high-level stakeholders from government, business and civil society will converge in Kigali, Rwanda, for a three-day consultation on ‘Getting Nutritious Foods to People.’

Nearly one in three people globally suffers from a lack of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, zinc and iron in the diet. This condition known as hidden hunger increases the risk of stunting, anemia, blindness, infectious diseases, and even death. Women and children are especially vulnerable.

HarvestPlus, a global program to improve nutrition and public health, has worked with partners to develop new varieties of nutritious food crops that provide more vitamin A, zinc, or iron. These crops already being grown by more than a million farmers have been conventionally bred. They include cassava, maize and orange sweet potato for vitamin A; beans and pearl millet for iron; and rice and wheat for zinc.

Studies have shown that these new varieties do provide nutritional benefits to consumers. “We’re just beginning to scratch the surface…we want to increase access to these nutritious crops as quickly as possible. Now is the time to bring partners together to figure out how we do this together,” says Howarth Bouis, the Director of HarvestPlus.

The conference is being hosted by the Government of Rwanda. More than 500,000 Rwandan farmers have already planted new varieties of beans that are rich in iron. These new iron beans also yield many more tons per hectare than the local varieties, and the surplus can be shared or sold.

Keynote speakers include M.S. Swaminathan, the renowned father of India’s Green Revolution; Chris Elias, President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation;  and, Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2013. Adesina serves on the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, a newly formed expert group that advises on nutrition-enhancing agricultural and food policies and investments. The panel will convene a special session to explore how biofortification could help decision makers in developing nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food policies.

“The evidence is promising, and we now need to explore the potential for biofortification to enhance agriculture and food policies for nutrition,” says Jeff Waage, Technical Advisor to the Global Panel and Director of the London International Development Centre.

The invitation-only consultation will be livestreamed and moderated by Jeff Koinange, an award-winning Kenyan journalist and past Chief Anchor for Africa for Arise Television and CNN Senior Africa Correspondent.

For more information, please visit the conference website. Learn more about HarvestPlus. Learn more about the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

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

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