HarvestPlus supports the National Institute of Agricultural Studies and Research (INERA) and the National Seed Service (SENASEM) to breed, test, and release varieties of vitamin A cassava and maize developed through our partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and iron beans developed through the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Cassava is the most important staple food in the DRC, maize is the second most important, and beans are among the main staple food crops in the country.
We work with private farmers, cooperatives, farmer associations, and non-governmental partners to produce and multiply stems and seed of released varieties for delivery to farmers. A payback system ensures that poor farmers receive free stems or seed, which they repay in kind upon harvest. Our partnership with public and nongovernmental organizations trains farming households in crop management, nutrition, post-harvest handling, and marketing.
We are facilitating private sector engagement in the value chain for vitamin A cassava and maize and iron beans, which is essential for long-term sustainability of stem and seed distribution, and to strengthen markets for biofortified crops.
Through public awareness campaigns, we leverage the power of mass media and local icons, including music stars, to educate Congolese on micronutrient deficiencies and the benefits of biofortified cassava, maize, and beans. Our advocacy seeks to strengthen national ownership of biofortification through effective integration into national nutrition and agricultural policies.
“We are cultivating high-iron beans because they are high yielding, early maturing, good tasting, and more nutritious for children and women, in addition to helping us generate more income.”— Eugenie Bulambo, Woman farmer and leader of HarvestPlus local partner Grenier de Kabare
Vitamin A Cassava
DRC ranks number 7 out of 123 countries suitable for investing in vitamin A cassava.
Nutritional Benefits: Provides up to 100% of daily vitamin A needs
Farmer Benefits: High yielding, virus resistant
Varieties: Kindisa (TMS 2001/1661), Vimpi, Lumonu
Vitamin A Maize
DRC ranks number 22 out of 128 countries suitable for investing in vitamin A maize.
Nutritional Benefits: Provides up to 50% of daily iron needs
Farmer Benefits: High yielding, disease and virus resistant, drought tolerant
Varieties: SAM 4 VITA (composite), PVA-SYN12F2 (composite), GV604 (hybrid), GV605 (hybrid)
DRC ranks number 26 out of 123 countries suitable for investing in iron beans.
Nutritional Benefits: Provides up to 80% of daily iron needs
Farmer Benefits: High yielding, virus resistant, heat and drought tolerant
Varieties: COD MLB 032 (bush), HM 21-7 (bush), RWR 2245 (bush), RWR 2154, PVA 1438 (bush), COD MLV 059 (bush), Nain de Kyondo (climber), Cuarentino (climber), Namulenga (climber)
- Vitamin A deficiency impairs growth, causes eye damage leading to blindness, and increases the risk of infections such as diarrheal diseases.
- 61% of Congolese children under 5 are estimated to be vitamin A deficient (WHO).
- Iron deficiency impairs mental development and learning capacity, increases weakness and fatigue, and may increase the risk of women dying in childbirth.
- 67% of children under five and half of women of reproductive age suffer from anemia; iron deficiency is a major cause.
- Annually, the DRC loses $100 million in GDP to vitamin and mineral deficiencies (World Bank).