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 that primarily eat what they grow on small plots of land suffer the most from hidden hunger.
HarvestPlus will significantly expand an innovation its founder developed. “Biofortification” enriches staple foods through conventional plant breeding to provide a sustainable, farmer-controlled tool to fight malnutrition.
Naturally nutrient-rich varieties of corn, cassava, wheat, and other staples are enhanced to meet farmer demands for yield and price. These staples, which rural families already eat in large quantities, 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 are developed to appeal to farmers, who can share seeds and planting materials. No extra water, fertilizer, or cooking time is required, and seed costs are the same as non-biofortified varieties.
With 20 million people already growing these biofortified crops, HarvestPlus plans to scale the introduction of these varieties regionally through three existing “hub countries” in Africa: Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia. The expansion is expected to reach 1 billion people by 2030, allowing multiple African countries to become nutrutionally self-sufficient and laying the groundwork to grow this work globally.
MacArthur Managing Director Cecilia Conrad discusses this bold solution.
Bev Postma, Chief Executive Officer, HarvestPlus
Annette Sheckler, Head of Communications