22 September 2023, India: In a crucial step towards the scaling up nutrient-enriched biofortified crops and the delivery of sustainable agricultural solutions for nutrition in India, the American India Foundation (AIF) and HarvestPlus have committed to combat micronutrient malnutrition together.
At the intersection of gender justice, climate change, and food security, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in August 2023 by each organization, outlines the organizations’ collective roles in amplifying the production and utilization of biofortified staple crops alongside the development of robust value chains that will support inclusive livelihoods development and the empowerment of women.
AIF is steadfast in its dedication to social change and improving the lives of the most impoverished—especially women and children. AIF addresses the multi-dimensional nature of poverty through impactful interventions in education, health, and livelihoods. Its unique strength lies in its deep engagement with communities and social impact organizations, and its expertise in fostering lasting connections between the United States and India.
HarvestPlus, a global leader in the development and promotion of nutrient-enriched biofortified crops, shares a parallel vision with AIF of addressing the societal and economic burdens of nutritional deficiencies and a mission to improve health outcomes across India.
“With the government leading the way in the promotion of biofortified crops, this is an opportune time to integrate interventions focused on reducing undernutrition among key populations through sustainable local food systems while nurturing profitable value chains for biofortified crops that will empower farmers,” said Dr. Mahesh Srinivas, Director – Public Health at AIF.
Globally, over 17.3 million smallholder farmers are growing biofortified crops, benefiting over 86 million people. In India alone, iron pearl millet and zinc wheat have gained rapid popularity among the over 1.4 million farmers who are already growing them—and millions more could benefit.
AIF and HarvestPlus recognize that nutrient-enriched biofortified crops are a proven technology for improving health and nutrition, especially among vulnerable populations. Research conducted in India has shown that when school children regularly eat iron-enriched pearl millet, it reverses iron deficiency and benefits their brains by improving cognitive abilities, and bodies by increasing time spent being active.
Improving the nutritional value of staple crops is especially important for communities who rely on them for daily nourishment. The nutrition of micronutrient deficient young children living in urban slums improved in their critical first 1,000 days of life (12 – 18 months old) when they ate iron pearl millet daily. Recipes made from multiple biofortified crops including iron pearl millet, zinc wheat, and vitamin A orange sweet potato have been shown to be readily eaten and highly acceptable among young Indian children and their mothers. By actively integrating home-grown biofortified crops into school feeding programs, HarvestPlus and its partners are providing a sustainable way to improve and safeguard the health and potential of future generations.
“This partnership is a significant stride in the fight against hidden hunger and the promotion of nutrition security in India. With AIF we will ensure agricultural-nutrition technology reaches local communities who need it most, transforming food systems and lives,” echoed Arun Baral, CEO of HarvestPlus and HarvestPlus Solutions.
Binu Cherian, HarvestPlus India Country Manager, highlighted the importance of establishing community-driven, nutritious food systems that are sustainable, climate-resilient, and locally accessible. Cherian noted, “Establishing robust value chains and linking surplus production to markets will play a pivotal role in improving livelihoods and fostering women’s economic empowerment.”
HarvestPlus and AIF are poised to collaboratively drive positive transformation in climate-smart agricultural practices and significantly positively influence the nutrition, health, and livelihoods of smallholder Indian farmers.
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