HarvestPlus is implementing a rapid-response project in Africa and Asia with support from the Government of Canada. The 18-month project responds to the urgent need to provide nutrition and livelihood relief to vulnerable households in low- and middle- income countries suffering from poor food and nutrition conditions heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project “An Integrated Food Systems Approach to Build Nutrition Security“ will equip smallholder farming families in Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Pakistan, Zambia, and Zimbabwe to grow nutrient-rich biofortified staple crops. It will also strengthen these farming families’ access to post-harvest markets, enabling them to sell any surplus, and extending the nutrition and health benefits of biofortification to vulnerable non-farm consumers. HarvestPlus aims to benefit 7.8 million people over the life of the project. 

The biofortified staples promoted in the project are conventionally bred (non-GM) to be rich in iron, zinc, or vitamin A—micronutrients that help act as a first line of defense against viruses and diseases and are shown in scientific research to improve nutrition and health when eaten regularly. Growing biofortified crops costs farming families no more than conventional local varieties to grow and help women and children reach their physical and intellectual potential.

Benefitting women and girls

The project has a specific focus on the engagement of women—who are disproportionately susceptible to the adverse effects of micronutrient deficiency—to ensure equitable improvements in health and livelihoods. In societies where women and girls eat last and least, with less access to preferred foods such as animal source foods, nutritionally enriched staple foods deliver critical nutritional benefits.

Project activities will include: engaging women in the participatory breeding process; improving women’s access to farm inputs, trainings, and technologies; targeting women-led enterprises in seed and food value chains; and increasing awareness among women of the nutrition and health benefits of biofortified foods in family meals. 

A value chain approach 

The project is taking a value chain approach to ensure that farming families have sustained access to biofortified crop seeds and related inputs, and to post-harvest markets. HarvestPlus and local partners will support the development of small- and medium-size value chain businesses by providing them with technical know-how to produce and sell biofortified seed, grain, and food products, as well as linkages to sources of financing.