Nigeria has achieved a remarkable milestone in the agricultural innovation space, emerging as Africa’s first nation to successfully develop zinc biofortified rice. This breakthrough is significant in addressing the pressing issue of nutritional deficiency, particularly in marginalized communities where dietary diversity is limited, leading to adverse health outcomes such as zinc deficiency.

A well-rounded diet enriched with essential minerals and vitamins has key importance when pursuing optimal health. Zinc plays a pivotal role, contributing to the overall well-being of individuals. With the view to combat malnutrition, particularly zinc deficiency, Nigeria has embraced biofortification to enhance the nutritional content of rice.

In collaboration with HarvestPlus Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Safety (FMAFS), Nigeria embarked on a concerted effort to develop and promote zinc biofortified rice varieties tailored to the specific nutritional needs of its populace.

The Biofortification Priority Index, developed by HarvestPlus, highlighted Nigeria’s acute need for zinc biofortification. This strategic partnership between public and private sectors aim to deliver nutritious zinc rice to the Nigerian people, ensuring improved health outcomes and enhanced nutritional security.

Through rigorous on-station trials, HarvestPlus introduced seven varieties of biofortified zinc rice, four of which demonstrated remarkable competitiveness when compared to existing non-biofortified varieties. The commencement of the next phase of trials signifies a significant step towards the eventual release of these biofortified rice varieties to Nigerian farmers, anticipated as early as 2025.

The government’s commitment to promoting zinc rice aligns with its broader strategy to mitigate the effects of widespread malnutrition. Biofortified rice, with its increased zinc content of up to 75 percent compared to non-biofortified varieties, holds immense promise in improving human health and reducing the prevalence of malnutrition, particularly among vulnerable populations.

Yusuf Dollah, Country Manager HarvestPlus Nigeria, reaffirmed the commitment to collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Safety, emphasizing the concerted efforts to ensure widespread access to biofortified rice seeds through various distribution channels. This concerted approach aims to empower farmers across communities to cultivate and consume these nutritious rice varieties, thereby fostering a culture of health and well-being.

As Nigeria leads the charge in pioneering zinc biofortified rice in Africa, it sets a precedent for other nations to prioritize nutritional security through innovative agricultural interventions. With concerted efforts and strategic partnerships, the vision of a healthier, more nourished population becomes an attainable reality, ensuring a brighter and more prosperous future for generations to come.