Growing to Scale with More Nutritious Staple Food Crops

Bev Postma, CEO, HarvestPlus

As the old saying goes, success has many fathers — and mothers! Ever since we received the amazing news that we are a 100&Change semi-finalist, many people have reminded us that he or she first encouraged us to apply. Whoever deserves the credit, we are honored and grateful to have made it this far.

So why did we apply? HarvestPlus was at a tipping point and we recognized that 100&Change could catalyze the sustainable transformation of nutrition, health, and livelihoods for millions of rural families in Africa. Years of research had proven that through an innovation known as biofortification, staple food crops like sweet potatoes, wheat, corn, rice, cassava, and beans — eaten daily in poor, rural households — could be conventionally bred to provide essential vitamins and minerals, not just starchy calories. Micronutrient deficiency can lead to blindness, weakened immunity, stunted brain development, hemorrhage during childbirth, and other serious health problems. Our solution addresses this by improving the daily diets and health of at-risk populations.

Our founding director, Dr. Howdy Bouis, was awarded the 2016 World Food Prize for this innovation. It is already having an impact on more than 20 million people now growing and eating these nutritious foods. HarvestPlus is poised to launch an ambitious new five-year strategy that aims to spread the benefits of these crops to more than 100 million people. We look forward to strengthening our strategy over the coming months with input from the MacArthur team and scaling experts at MSI.

We are fortunate to have great country team leaders, including five in Africa. In recent years, they have reached out to national agricultural experts in many other countries, creating excitement and building the necessary skills to jump-start biofortification programs across the region. Their networks have laid the foundation for successfully taking naturally nutritious staple foods to scale in Africa.

These networks came together the way all our work does — through collaboration with others. Our broad array of partners includes governments, civil society, the private sector, and most importantly, the farmers who, literally and figuratively, will make biofortification grow.

This post was first published on the MacArthur Foundation website.

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