Eliminating hidden hunger in Africa by fortifying staple crops
More than two billion people globally–nearly one person in three–have daily diets that lack sufficient vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc, which are essential to health. Known as “hidden hunger,” these deficiencies lead to blindness, stunting, cognitive impairment, disease, and death. The problem is most acute in rural areas, where 70 percent of the world’s poor live, and where farm families primarily eat what they grow on small plots of land.
HarvestPlus will use the simple power of "biofortification"—enriching foods through conventional plant breeding—to relieve hidden hunger and address one of the world's biggest problems. The program will significantly expand this innovation, which was developed by its founder to offer a sustainable, farmer-controlled tool to fight malnutrition.
Naturally nutrient-rich varieties of corn, cassava, wheat, and other staples are enhanced to provide 25 to 100 percent of the daily requirements for vitamin A, iron, and zinc. Crops are selected for development based on local diets and growing patterns, and new varieties are made available. Self-pollinated and hybrid varieties allow for seeds and planting material to be shared, and appeal to farmers for this reason. No extra water, fertilizer, or cooking time is required for biofortified crops, and seed costs and yield per acre are the same as non-biofortified varieties.
With 26 million people already growing these biofortified crops, HarvestPlus plans to scale the introduction and dissemination of these varieties in 17 priority countries in Africa. Scaling will be done regionally through three existing administrative "hub countries": Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia. The expansion is expected to reach 100 million people in Africa by 2022, paving the way to reach 1 billion people globally by 2030.
The team made the following changes to its proposal since it was first submitted in October of 2016, informed by additional research, project development, and authentic engagement with communities of interest—defined as beneficiaries, those who might suffer harm, other funders, and competitors.
- Defined four distinct clusters of activities (strategy pillars) that focus on both supply and demand side factors.
- Increased targeted number of African farmers growing biofortified crops from 90 million to 100 million and the number of targeted African countries from 14 to 17.
- Added Benin, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mali, and Mozambique to list of priority countries and de-prioritized Burundi and Sierra Leone based on in-depth needs assessments.
- Updated statistic on people already reached from 20 million to 26 million.
About Our Team
Our team—hailing from 15 countries on five continents—includes experts in nutrition, agriculture, finance, economics, marketing, seed systems, behavior change, evaluation and advocacy. These biofortification pioneers have worked with dozens of partners to develop more nutritious crops, introduce them to farming families, and measure their impact.
Key Project Staff
Bev Postma, Chief Executive Officer, HarvestPlus
Sylvain Bidiaka, Country Manager, DR Congo (cassava), HarvestPlus
Paul Ilona, Country Manager, Nigeria, HarvestPlus
Lister Katsvairo, Manager, Partnership Countries, HarvestPlus
Antoine Lubobo, Country Manager, DR Congo (beans), HarvestPlus
Sylvia Magezi, Country Manager, Uganda, HarvestPlus
Bho Mudyahoto, Head, Global Monitoring & Evaluation, HarvestPlus
Joseph Mulambu, Country Manager, Rwanda, HarvestPlus
Wolfgang Pfeiffer, Director, Research & Development, HarvestPlus
Eliab Simpungwe, Country Manager, Zambia, HarvestPlus
Peg Willingham, Head of Advocacy and Policy
Biofortification: Is It the Next 'Green Revolution' for More Nutritious Food?
Genetic Literacy Project
Special Issue Devoted to Biofortification
African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development
Staple Crops Biofortified with Increased Vitamins and Minerals: Considerations for a Public Health Strategy
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences