The five-year, multi-country ENRICH program ran from 2016-2021 and focused on reducing maternal and child mortality through directly addressing malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of life (conception to 24 months). World Vision Canada (WVC), Nutrition International (NI), and the Canadian Society for International Health were the implementing partners for the project in Kenya, Tanzania, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. HarvestPlus was the technical partner for biofortification in all countries except Myanmar. The University of Toronto Dalla Lana School of Public Health is an independent evaluator of the program.
The ENRICH project is a prime example of how HarvestPlus and World Vision Canada have been able to create synergies in the field to generate more impact for vulnerable smallholder farming families, targeting more than two million people. The ultimate outcome has been to reduce maternal and child mortality by ensuring equitable access to essential health and nutrition services. The “Health Systems Strengthening” approach has resulted in improved access, quality, and utilization of care at community- and lower-level health facility, in addition to supporting national guideline development and inclusion of nutrition indicators at higher levels.
ENRICH has implemented multi-sectoral gender-responsive interventions in a community-based care approach, which has contributed to the prevention of 680 child deaths. ENRICH achieved successes in gender equality as 95,000 men and male youth have been trained in a MenCare model (which was developed by Promundo but adapted to meet program objectives), which promotes gender-equal relations, male involvement in pre- and post-natal care and nutrition, and tackles cultural and gender norms that perpetuate devaluation of girls and women.
In Bangladesh, thousands of farming families in the northwest district of Thakurgaon have been introduced to cultivation of zinc-biofortified rice varieties through the ENRICH program. The consumption of zinc biofortified rice reduces disease frequency in children, increases appetite, and reduces gastrointestinal diseases. About 36 percent of children under five in Bangladesh are zinc-deficient, making them vulnerable to stunting and a loss of appetite, lower immunity, and increased risk of diarrheal disease and respiratory infections. To date, five open-pollinated zinc rice varieties have been released by the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and are already available to farmers to plant during either the Aman (monsoon) or Boro (dry) seasons.
The zinc rice program in Thakurgaon has been praised by local officials for its nutrition and livelihood benefits. Anisur Rahman, a District Agriculture Officer, said the variety grown is well-suited to the local soil and its shorter growing cycle means lower production costs for farmers. Maodudul Islam, the Deputy Director of the Department of Agricultural Extension in Thakurgaon, said farmers are able to add a cash crop such as potato between rice seasons, creating new livelihood opportunities.
The ENRICH program in Kenya aims to deliver OSP alongside biofortified beans. The project is achieving this through partnership between HarvestPlus, World Vision, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Institute (KARLO) in Kitale, and the Elgeyo Marakwet County Government.
In Kenya, 60,000 farming families are receiving more than 30 million OSP cuttings through the program’s 39 community nurseries. Hellen Maina (pictured) is a Community Health Volunteer in Keiyo South in Marakwet County (also known as the County of Champions), in the North Rift Valley of Kenya. She was introduced to biofortification by the ENRICH program, which provided her with vitamin A OSP vines.
Hellen received specialized training on how to grow the sweet potatoes. She then received and planted 1500 vines of a variety called Kenspot4, to grow on about a quarter of an acre. Since the season was a little dry, she irrigated her sweet potatoes with water from a nearby spring. Currently, Hellen has harvested, consumed, and sold more than 450 kg of OSP.
Hellen says that in addition to providing good income, the crop is also cheap to produce. She cannot meet local demand, including requests from middlemen who want to trade the OSP in other towns. Her wish is to see more farmers in the county growing and consuming biofortified crops.
The ENRICH Program itself highlights the importance of leveraging partnerships: it was recognized on International Women’s Day 2019 with the CanWaCH Partnership Award from the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH). The award is given to individuals or organizations that have demonstrated notable contributions to Canada’s advancement of global health for women and children while effectively showcasing the power of partnership in their work.