Women are priority participants in every aspect of advancing biofortification. For HarvestPlus and its partners, this begins at the crop development stage, when the breeding targets for crops’ micronutrient levels are set to meet the specific nutritional requirements of reproductive-age women and adolescent girls, as well as all young children.
Biofortified crops are also bred to provide practical value for women. For example, some varieties of iron-biofortified beans are bred to cook more rapidly, freeing up time for women to engage in other activities, including income-generating activities. Varieties of vitamin A cassava and orange sweet potato contain levels of dry matter that facilitate post-harvest processing, which is often performed by women for these types of crops.
Women in the Family
Nutrition-based education is integrated in the farmer community engagement work done by HarvestPlus and national partners. This includes coverage of nutritional concepts, the elements of a nutritious diet, and food preparation techniques.
SmartMothers in Nigeria
HarvestPlus Nigeria supports champions through the SmartMother Platform to educate and rally mothers around the need to ensure good nutrition for themselves, their young children, and everyone in their families. SmartMothers hold community sensitization programs to share nutrition information with other mothers, and provide guidance on making foods from biofortified crops for household consumption as well as income generation.
Women as Farmers
In 2020, women were nearly two-thirds of the 286,000 farmers trained by HarvestPlus and its partners in production, harvesting, and processing of biofortified crops. Since women’s farming is generally more focused on producing food for the household, the added nutrition is more likely to reach children in the family.
Taking the prize
Emelda Ngwarati grows vitamin A-biofortified orange maize and iron-biofortified beans in Mazowe District, Zimbabwe. She claimed the top prize for her harvest at the 2020 Zimbabwe Agricultural Show, receiving a trophy from the President of Zimbabwe. Ngwarati was introduced to biofortified crops through the Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP), which also appointed her a Community Based Mobiliser to help promote production and consumption of biofortified foods.
Women as Entrepreneurs
Biofortification’s benefits for women extend beyond the farm. Through technical assistance and training, women in multiple countries are starting and expanding small- and medium-size businesses to produce and sell biofortified seed and food products.
Seeding a livelihood
Pramila Devi went from farming zinc wheat to running a seed supply business in the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Now, in part thanks to her seed business, 91 other nearby women farmers were growing zinc wheat in the most recent season.