Global Consultation on Nutritious Foods Closes with Commitments from Major Stakeholders

Panel Discussion_Day3Today in Kigali, participants at the global consultation on “Getting Nutritious Foods to People” explored how to increase access to, and impact of, nutritious crops globally. The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition hosted a discussion moderated by Rachel Kyte, the World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, which highlighted quality research, continued investment, capacity building, gender sensitivity, and multi-stakeholder engagement as crucial factors for achieving that goal. The panel consisted of: Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development; Dr. Agnes Binagwahol, Rwanda’s Minister of Health; Ruben Echeverria, the Director General of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT); Jonathan Shrier, the Special Representative for Global Food Security at the US State Department; and, Tim Wheeler, the Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor at the UK Department for International Development (DfID).

“It is gratifying that this important consultation has attracted such a stellar cast of experts,” said Howarth Bouis, the Director of HarvestPlus. “We are confident that a momentum has been created in the effort to develop and deliver nutritious food crops to millions of people around the world.”

Several of the over 140 organizations represented at the conference made commitments in support of scaling up and mainstreaming biofortification in programs, policies and marketing.

While closing the conference, Rwandan Minister of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Dr. Agnes Kalibata pledged that biofortification would be central to the Government of Rwanda’s fight against malnutrition. HarvestPlus, which convened this global consultation, hosted with the Government of Rwanda, committed to demonstrating scale up and cost-effectiveness in its nine target countries. Dr. Bouis pledged a third biofortification conference in three years’ time to review progress in getting nutritious foods to more people around the world.

 

Is the Era of “Biohappiness” Upon Us?

Swaminathan1A Report from Day Two of the Global Consultation on "Getting Nutritious Foods to People". Agriculture-based innovations such as the development of nutrient-rich crops through biofortification will be critical if the goal of eradicating hunger is to be met. This was the central message in Dr. M.S. Swaminathan’s keynote address on Day Two of the Second Global Conference on Biofortification.  Biofortification, noted the renowned agricultural scientist, addresses all three major dimensions of hunger - caloric, protein, and vitamin/mineral deficiencies - and can be a key strategy within the overall framework of the UN’s Zero Hunger Challenge. Among other goals, the Zero Hunger Challenge envisions a world where universal access to adequate food is guaranteed, and where child stunting due to poor nutrition is eradicated. Given its current success and its promising prospects, noted Dr. Swaminathan, biofortification will be important in achieving those goals.

But developing nutritious crops is only half the job; making sure that these crops get adopted by farmers and eaten widely by people is just as critical to achieving the nutrition and public health outcomes expected from biofortification. Participants at a panel discussion moderated by respected journalist and award winning author Roger Thurow shared their experiences in developing or delivering nutritious crops. They also identified challenges, ranging from poor policy engagement to weak markets. But fewer challenges, noted some of the panelists, are likely to be as critical to the ultimate success of biofortification as that of reversing a growing trend among the younger generation: the unattractiveness of agriculture as a career or livelihood option. HarvestPlus and its partners will have to find ways to counter this trend, including through vigorous promotion of biofortification’s commercial benefits.

Joanne NkuliyeTestimony from a Rwandan farmer who has adopted iron beans provides grounds for hope that this can be achieved. Joane Nkuliye, who started planting iron beans in 2010, referred to these varieties as “miraculous”, highlighting the impact they have had on her life. Due to their higher yields compared to ordinary varities, iron beans have allowed Joane to harvest double from the same 25-hectare land that she had before she adopted them. Now she is able to sell more in the market and earn enough to employ 30 people. "Iron beans have made us love agriculture again,” she said. “Now we are millionaires and people are beginning to look up to us, ” she added jokingly.

Perhaps the era of “biohappiness”, a dream of Dr. Swaminathan’s, is upon us.

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