We’re Committed To Tackling Malnutrition – HarvestPlus


From Okwe Obi, Abuja

HarvestPlus has reiterated its commitment to addressing malnutrition with the introduction of iron-enriched pearl millet varieties.

Its Country Director, Yusuf Dollah Fu’ad, said in a statement that the organisation would also champion food system transformation, saying food systems need to move beyond hunger.

Yusuf Dollah Fu’ad said: “HarvestPlus was formed in 2003 to complement existing nutrition initiatives through a food-based approach by developing new crop varieties that have high levels of micronutrients and minerals and this is done through conventional breeding efforts (biofortification).

“HarvestPlus is also using this initiative to champion food system transformation, meaning food systems need to move beyond addressing hunger to address all forms of malnutrition. They need to deliver universal access to healthy diets.

“This again means addressing all forms of malnutrition and ensuring improved diets for all.

“In Nigeria, HarvestPlus works with public, private, and national partners to promote the adoption and scaling of these new nutritious crops and foods, to help bring upon a rapid and nutritious transformation of the Nigerian food system.

“Through this type of collaboration, HarvestPlus has been able to deliver to
Nigerian consumers, vitamin A cassava, and vitamin A maize, and work is progressing at the moment on the development of zinc rice.

“Today, we are here to inform the world of yet another milestone in ensuring Nigerians have access to these nutritious foods through a collaborative effort between HarvestPlus, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) have produced two iron-rich varieties (known as jirani and chakti), becoming the first biofortified varieties of
pearl millets to be released in Africa.

“This initiative builds on scaling efforts in India, where the number of farming households growing iron pearl millet has jumped 395% since 2021.

“With the release of these varieties, Nigeria is well placed to contribute its quota in line with the UN declaration of 2023 as the International Year of the Millets, smallholder farmers can now have access to naturally nutritious, climate-smart varieties of iron pearl millet to help address their need to improve their productivity and household nutrition in the face of global shocks.

“Climate volatility in northern Nigeria is also leading to decreased crop yields, decreased nutrients in some of the staples, increased food prices, and heightened food insecurity—worsening malnutrition.

“Smallholder farmers are also looking for opportunities to bridge production yield gaps brought about by climatic stress through improved agricultural technologies like nutrient-enriched seeds.

“The iron pearl millet combines higher iron content with other enhanced and preferred farmer traits including higher
yield, extra-early maturity, and drought tolerance to provide more nutrition and food security to rural farming communities in arid and drought-prone regions.

“As an affordable dietary source of iron in the region, iron-enriched varieties of pearl millet like chakti and jirani can improve nutrition for millions of farming households—providing up to 80 percent of daily iron needs when eaten regularly.

“Eating iron pearl millet is a proven way to resolve the iron deficiency and enhance the cognitive abilities of adolescents, India has done it and we can also do it.

“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.”

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