DREA Commissioner Meets Harvest Plus Team, Discuss Bio-fortification
AU Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture has received Dr. Howarth Bouis, Director of Harvest Plus and Dr. Anna-Marie Ball the Head of Africa Strategic Alliances, Harvest Plus.
Harvest Plus is a lead research-based, agriculture technology institution that was established to respond to the problem of ‘hidden hunger,’ which is caused by the lack of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet, such as vitamin A, zinc, and iron, thus reinforcing agriculture’s pivotal role in improving the quality of diet and increasing micronutrient consumption.
The duo briefed the Commissioner about Harvest Plus’ accomplishments in breeding and producing bio-fortified food crops and distributing bio-fortified seed varieties and improved cultivars, thereby empowering rural communities.
The organization also helps add value to locally produced agricultural crops in countries where the organisation is working, in Africa. Dr. Bouis shared some successes of their programme including inroads in processing, marketing, distribution and advertising of orange maize in Zambia, rapid expansion in production and consumption of yellow cassava in Nigeria, the impact of high yielding iron beans in Rwanda, and the proliferation of farming households (over 250,000) in Uganda who are farming bio-fortified sweet potatoes.
The two parties discussed the need to implement a strong advocacy programme for promoting buy-in, farming and consumption of the bio-fortified crops, especially among poor farming and urban communities.
Tumusiime stressed that the use of farming technology needed to be propagated at higher policy making levels so that farmers could adopt it and sellers could buy the micronutrient-added produce in good quantities to improve market access. She assured Harvest Plus of her strong appreciation of the role the organization was playing in lifting the rural poor communities in Africa out of poverty and improving healthy and nutrient-dense dietary consumption.
Tumusiime further assured Harvest Plus of support of the programme within her portfolio in the AUC as well as her role as a Member of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition. She also reinforced the need to align activities under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Framework and the commitments of the Malabo Declaration, adding that the current momentum was towards implementation and results.
Mrs. Tumusiime encouraged Harvest Plus to join efforts within the Agriculture Science Agenda in which the AUC andthe Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR) work together within the framework of Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA). Harvest Plus has released a number of bio-fortified crops, including: iron beans, iron pearl millet, vitamin A cassava, vitamin A maize, vitamin A sweet potatoes, zinc rice and zinc wheat.