HarvestPlus supports the Department of Research and Specialist Services to breed, test, and release varieties of vitamin A maize and iron beans developed through our partnership with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) for maize and beans, respectively. Maize is the primary staple food in Zimbabwe, mainly consumed as processed maize meal (sadza). Most Zimbabweans will say they have not eaten until they have had sadza with its associated relish—beans, vegetable or meat.
Due to micronutrient malnutrition rates, in November 2015, the Zimbabwean government launched a fortification strategy, and biofortification was incorporated as an food-based solution. To date, more than 250,000 households have been reached with biofortified maize and bean seeds both directly and through market-led interventions. This has largely been through the Livelihoods and Food Security Program (LFSP), funded with UK aid from the UK government, which is managed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). HarvestPlus in Zimbabwe is a strategic technical partner to the LFSP on biofortification. By 2020, the LFSP anticipates reaching a target of 400,000 smallholder farmers growing biofortified crops in the country.
The Zimbabwe’s Department of Research and Specialist Services, with support from HarvestPlus and other partners has released four varieties of vitamin A maize and of iron beans, which are then licensed to private seed companies to produce seed for sale to farmers. The commercial seed is distributed through agrodealers, government agricultural input support schemes and non-governmental organizations. HarvestPlus also supports commercial seed and grain sales, connects buyers and processors to farmers, and increases awareness of vitamin A maize and iron beans through consumer education, advertising, and media outreach.
Farming households have benefited from the vitamin A orange maize and iron bean in the country’s 12 districts. Since 2015, 130,000 metric tons of vitamin A orange maize and 165 metric tons of iron bean seed was distributed to 12 districts and about 250,000 households benefited. The demonstration plot and field days are organized in various districts to create awareness, educate and train farmers on how to produce the crop and showcase good agricultural practices. The goal is to scale up the production and consumption of these crops through collaboration with government and private sector.
“We like the vitamin A maize a lot and are eating the sadza for its nutritional value. Even our children now prefer to eat porridge made from orange maize.”— Belinda Mlondiwa, farmer
Vitamin A Maize
Zimbabwe ranks 10 out of 128 countries suitable for investing in vitamin A maize.
Nutritional Benefits: Provides up to 50% of daily vitamin A needs
Farmer Benefits: High yielding, disease and virus resistant, drought tolerant
Varieties: ZS242, ZS244, ZS246, ZS248
Zimbabwe ranks 38 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
- Vitamin A deficiency lowers immunity, impairs vision, and may lead to blindness and even death.
- 36% of Zimbabwean children under 5 are estimated to be vitamin A deficient (WHO).
- Zimbabwe loses over US$24 million annually due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies (World Bank).
- Iron deficiency impairs mental development and learning capacity, increases weakness and fatigue, and may increase the risk of women dying in childbirth.