Micronutrient deficiency continues to undermine public health and prosperity in developing countries. Food fortification and supplementation have been effective at addressing these problems, but millions of smallholder farm families have limited access to these interventions. To address this problem, HarvestPlus and its partners have used conventional crop breeding techniques to develop staple food products that are rich in vitamin A, iron, and zinc (three of four most essential micronutrients identified by the World Health Organization). This process, known as biofortification, targets the nutritional needs of women and young children and offers several positive health outcomes including improved immunity and resistance to diseases.
Working with a broad array of partners, HarvestPlus has provided planting material, behavior change messaging, and other support to accelerate the development, delivery, acceptance and adoption of biofortified crops. More than a dozen biofortified crops are already being grown in more than 30 countries, and another 16 countries are evaluating these crops. 10 million people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are currently growing and benefiting from their increased nutritious value. Additional partnerships will be key to scaling up and mainstreaming in the years ahead.
This seminar described the complex and innovative process of bringing these crops from field to plate, the nutritional impact of the steps involved, and the scalability of biofortification. Dr. Howarth Bouis, the founder and director of HarvestPlus, and Dr. Anna-Marie Ball also dispelled some myths about biofortification, shared lessons learned, and provided ways to participate in the ambitious effort to mainstream and scale up to reach a billion people by 2030.
HarvestPlus improves nutrition and public health by developing and promoting biofortified food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals, and providing global leadership on biofortification evidence and technology. HarvestPlus is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). CGIAR is a global agriculture research partnership for a food secure future. Its science is carried out by its 15 research centers in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations. The HarvestPlus program is coordinated by two of these centers, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).