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.

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

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 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.

 

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