HarvestPlus announced today that Arun Baral will be the global program’s next chief executive officer (CEO) to lead its work to address the serious nutrition and health impacts of micronutrient deficiencies in low- and middle-income countries by improving agriculture and food systems.
Baral, currently chief financial officer (CFO) at HarvestPlus, will become CEO on July 1, 2019, and succeed Howarth “Howdy” Bouis, who is retiring. Bouis founded HarvestPlus and was awarded the World Food Prize in 2016 for his seminal work on biofortification.
Micronutrient deficiency, or “hidden hunger,” affects more than 2 billion people and contributes to widespread health problems—including stunting, anemia, and sight impairment—and can even lead to death. HarvestPlus, based at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), is a leader in addressing hidden hunger through biofortification—the process of developing staple crops through conventional breeding to be rich in micronutrients (specifically iron, vitamin A, or zinc) that are essential for good health and development.
Since 2004, HarvestPlus has worked with hundreds of partners around the world to develop more than 200 biofortified crop varieties in 30 countries, distribute seeds and know-how to small farmers, advocate for supportive policies, and build sustainable biofortified food systems.
“HarvestPlus plays a critical, catalytic role in the promotion of biofortification, and I am delighted that Arun has agreed to lead this effort,” said Andrew Natsios, a former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and chair of the HarvestPlus Program Advisory Committee, the program’s oversight body. “Arun has a deep understanding of seed markets and agricultural supply chains—the most efficient conduits for getting these nutritious crops to the largest number of people.”
Baral joined HarvestPlus in 2017 with the goal improving the well-being of agricultural and rural communities in which he had served during his career in the private sector. As CFO, he has been deeply involved in strengthening HarvestPlus’ governance; operational, risk, and financial management; and forging new private-sector partnerships. He recently spearheaded the establishment of HarvestPlus Solutions, a nonprofit entity that focuses on scaling up biofortification by addressing gaps in seed and food value chains.
Prior to joining HarvestPlus, Baral spent more than 30 years in the international agriculture and food sectors, with roles in commercial operations, profit and loss management, strategy, finance, business development, and marketing; he has been based in Asia, Africa, and the United States, and traveled extensively for work in Latin America. Baral spent much of his career at DuPont Pioneer, including as Asia regional business director, where he was instrumental in developing and executing a strategy that significantly grew the Asia business during his tenure. Baral holds a Master of Business Administration from Drake University in Iowa, and a Bachelor of Commerce (honors) from Delhi University in India.
“The selection of Arun puts HarvestPlus in very good hands at this important point in its trajectory,” said Bouis. “He brings considerable managerial and global experience at a time when there is strong consensus on expanding the use of biofortification as an agriculture-based nutrition strategy.”
Worldwide, about 10 million farming households are now growing and eating biofortified crops, benefiting some 50 million household members, while millions of consumers eat food products made with nutritious biofortified ingredients. HarvestPlus-supported biofortified crops include: vitamin A cassava, sweet potato, and maize; iron beans, and pearl millet; zinc maize, wheat, and rice.