Under the World Bank-funded Multisectoral Nutrition and Health Project (PMNS), HarvestPlus is providing technical assistance to the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to rapidly scale production and consumption of biofortified crops in three provinces with high rates of micronutrient malnutrition: South Kivu, Kwilu, and Kasai.
At an advocacy event held in South Kivu on Sept. 15, representatives of the provincial government declared strong support for the PMNS biofortification work, which bodes well for the effective rollout of the project.
Alain Shamavu, speaking on behalf of the Governor of South Kivu, said, “The introduction of biofortified crops in South Kivu brings a sigh of relief for us, given that this province is faced with a very serious malnutrition problem. The provincial Government…will make every effort to support the biofortification activities of the PMNS, and will also follow closely the progress of these activities on the ground to ensure that its objectives are achieved.”
Shamavu noted that biofortified crops and foods have the potential to reduce rates of malnutrition among the most vulnerable populations in the province, notably children under five years old and women of reproductive age. “In the name of the Governor of the Province whom we represent today, the Government will do its utmost to accompany HarvestPlus” in the biofortification effort, he said.
Apart from the government, HarvestPlus is engaging civil society organizations, religious leaders, and even military personnel in efforts to raise awareness among the populace about hidden hunger and how biofortified crops and foods can improve their nutrition and health.
HarvestPlus is also engaging the media, and in South Kivu, there was evident interest among media representatives in covering the progress of biofortification. At a media awareness event on Sept. 16, the provincial director of Congo National Radio and Television, Patrick Kyungu Silimu, declared, “Malnutrition is a real issue in this province. We need to follow the activities of this project…to inform the populace through the media of the importance of consuming biofortified crops.”
Under the PMNS, the DRC Government has incorporated the development and promotion of biofortified staple crops as a “nutrition-smart” agriculture strategy, meaning that these crops not only improve nutrition and health status, but can also generate new income opportunities for farming families and SME agribusinesses.
HarvestPlus is helping to strengthen the capacities of ministries, public agencies, private sector actors, and NGO partners to develop sustainable supply chains for biofortified crop planting material; distribution channels and technical support for farmers; vibrant post-harvest markets for farmer’s harvests; and supportive policies and regulations. Principal implementing partners for this project on the government side are the National Agricultural Study and Research Institute (INERA) and the National Seed Service (SENASEM). The initiative will also prioritize engagement and inclusion of women farmers and entrepreneurs, to ensure that they are fully empowered to benefit from increased activity in biofortified crops and foods.
In this first year of the three-year biofortification scaling initiative, HarvestPlus is working with government partners to integrate biofortification into relevant national health, agriculture, and nutrition policies and strategies, and to develop a reliable, high-quality supply chain of biofortified crop planting material for farmers. In the second and third years, the focus will be on rapidly scaling up marketing of biofortified planting materials to farmers, notably by increasing farmer awareness and conducting farmer training programs on the agronomic, nutritional, and health benefits of biofortified crops.