21 March 2023, Bihar: A new partnership between HarvestPlus and Heifer International (Heifer) will enrich the diets and lives of 70,000 rural women and smallholder farmers in the Indian state of Bihar.
United by a shared vision and commitment to combat malnutrition and improve livelihoods through agriculture, HarvestPlus and Heifer will work together to improve the nutrition and income-generation potential of rural women and smallholder farmers.
The collaboration will integrate biofortified crops into the Heifer Bihar Sustainable Livelihood Development (BSLD) project and build on the successful scaling and capacity building efforts of the HarvestPlus Bihar and Odisha Nutrition Initiative project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Heifer International believes that ending hunger and poverty begins with agriculture, and smallholder farmers are at the heart of this effort,” said Mahendra Lohani, Senior Vice President of Asia Programs at Heifer International. “I am hopeful that biofortified seeds provided by HarvestPlus will help Bihar Sustainable Livelihood Development project farmers increase their income, improve their families’ nutrition, and have more nutritious food in the local marketplace, resulting in an alleviation of hunger, malnutrition, and poverty in the state.”
Over the coming two years HarvestPlus and Heifer will develop more nutritious, resilient, climate-smart supply chains by increasing smallholder farmers’ access to zinc wheat seeds that are also high yielding and drought-tolerant. This work will drive up the production and consumption of these nutrient-enriched crops, as well as sales of food products made from them, especially by women.
“HarvestPlus and Heifer International share a common goal to improve the lives of vulnerable communities globally,” said Arun Baral, CEO of HarvestPlus. “This collaboration will deepen the impact and reach of our biofortification program in India. Together, we will bring more nutritious crops and foods to fields, homes, and marketplaces across Bihar, enriching lives and safeguarding futures.”
A key tenet of the partnership is the goal to build the capacity of farmers and service providers like community agriculture and veterinary entrepreneurs (agrovets), community facilitators, and collaborating non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for lasting impact.
“This partnership will enhance smallholder farmers’ access to biofortified seeds, best agricultural practices, and markets to sustainably add nutrition into the food system and bring widespread livelihood opportunities,” said Binu Cherian, HarvestPlus India Country Manager.
Citizens of Bihar are highly vulnerable not only to malnutrition but the effects of climate change. “I am sure this partnership will make a positive difference in the lives of smallholder farmers in Bihar. The BSLD project is promoting climate-smart agriculture and the supply of biofortified seeds will further help to increase production and provide a better yield for the farmers,” said Dr. Abhinav Gaurav, Program Director, Heifer International.
Regularly eating foods made from zinc-enriched wheat is proven to increase daily zinc intakes of women and improve the health of women and young children—vitally important steps towards combatting the effects of widespread zinc deficiency in the populous state of Bihar.
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