For the primary beneficiaries of HarvestPlus—smallholder farming families and low-resource consumers in Africa, Asia, and Latin America—the rapid expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic caused immediate health threats and increased economic, food, and nutrition insecurity. To address these challenges, HarvestPlus and its partners pivoted to crisis-response mode.
Our 2020 Annual Report, “Responding to Crisis, Building Resilience,” describes steps we and our many partners took to ensure that millions of farming families dependent on biofortified crops for essential micronutrients, nourishment, and livelihood, did not miss a crucial planting season or lose their links to post-harvest markets. We also helped biofortified food businesses—many run by women—continue to source needed raw material, and we contributed to humanitarian relief efforts for hard-hit communities.
The good news amid the turmoil: by the end of 2020, 9.7 million of farming households across Africa, Asia, and Latin America were growing biofortified crops, a 14 percent increase over 2019, and more than 48 million household members are now consuming and benefitting from these crops. This is particularly significant for the women and young children in these families, since they are most at risk of micronutrient deficiency and its ill effects.
Scaling Up Biofortification
The year also saw continued momentum in efforts to scale up biofortification globally; even as national governments grappled with the pandemic’s immediate risks to their citizens in 2020, many also took steps to accelerate the scale-up of biofortification.
Examples cited in this report include bold new commitments by leaders in India, Tanzania, and Guatemala. We also saw the CGIAR (of which HarvestPlus is a part) ramp up efforts to “mainstream” nutrition targeting in its global crop breeding programs, which supply improved seed varieties as public goods to hundreds of countries.
Empowering Women with Nutritious Crops
Women are priority beneficiaries 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.
The Annual Report describes ways that HarvestPlus and its partners leverage biofortified seeds, crops, and foods to engage and empower women as family members, as farmers, and as entrepreneurs, helping improve their nutrition, health, and livelihoods, as well as that of their families.
Building Back Better
As we all aim to build back better, more-resilient food systems, biofortification is poised to play an important and highly complementary role in strategies to improve food and nutrition security, health, and livelihoods. We are committed to making all available foods as nutritious as possible.
We thank our donors and partners for their continued support in this effort.
To find out about partnering with HarvestPlus, email: [email protected]