Washington D.C., March 5, 2018— HarvestPlus was named a partner in the Government of Colombia’s Comprehensive National Program for the Replacement of Illicit Crops (PNIS), which encourages farmers to transition away from growing illegal crops and supports their efforts to grow staple crops for the community. HarvestPlus will work alongside the Colombian Agricultural Research Corporation (CORPOICA) to ensure high-quality seeds are readily available to farmers seeking to replace their current crops and to provide technical assistance throughout the transition.
“Already, 10,000 households throughout Colombia are reaping the benefits of biofortified crops—both nutritionally and economically,” says Carolina Gonzalez, Deputy Manager of HarvestPlus in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Through PNIS, we will be able to reach even more families with critical nutrition and provide support as farmers turn towards healthier economically viable crops.”
The PNIS program was established as part of the peace treaty signed in November 2016 by the Colombian government and leftist FARC rebels. The program will run in ten departments and reach nearly 5,300 families, supporting farmers that have volunteered to stop growing illegal crops, such as coca, and halt their engagement in related illicit activity.
Beginning this month, PNIS will provide three crops important to food security (maize, beans, and rice) and six commercial crops (cocoa, sugar cane, guava, avocado, pineapple, and forestry). HarvestPlus will provide seeds for high iron beans and white zinc maize to boost community nutrition in addition local marketing expertise.
“Two biofortified bush bean varieties were released in Colombia in 2016 and more productive climbing bean varieties are planned to be released as well," commented Bodo Raatz, a breeder from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture's bean program. "This will allow us to have even more impact in coming years, improving the livelihood of vulnerable populations.” The World Health Organization estimates that malnutrition contributes to the death of 3.1 million children under five every year, and of these losses, one million are the direct result of hidden hunger.
In collaboration with international research institutes and national research partners like CORPOICA, HarvestPlus uses conventional plant breeding to increase the levels of vitamin A, zinc and iron—three of the micronutrients most lacking in diets globally according to the World Health Organization—in staple crops like beans, maize, and sweet potatoes.
“Beyond their nutrition value, biofortified crops in this area are widely known to meet farmers’ demands regarding yield, quality and climate tolerance,” says Julio Ramírez, Head of the Seed Department at CORPOICA. “We hope that our joint work with HarvestPlus will encourage more farmers to volunteer to participate in PNIS.”