Unless governments invest more in breeding crops with nutritional values, people will continue suffering from nutritional diseases that have killed millions around the world.
This was highlighted at the ongoing second global conference on biofortification that opened in Kigali yesterday.
The conference brought together experts from around the world to discuss how to add value to crop production to fight hunger and malnutrition.
Participants observed that although a lot has been done to fight hunger and malnutrition, people were still dependent on food crops that have less value due to lack of added technology.
Statistics presented at the symposium show that 1.5 million children die every year in the world because of hunger, 800 million suffer from malnutrition, while 33 per cent of world population is considered starving.
Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi said to eliminate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, there was need to strengthen cooperation between governments and various partners, especially scientists.
“We need to produce food that has more nutrients to help prevent health challenges. If we are to have a bright future, all possible solutions and ideas must be brought to the table and we reach a collective decision,” he said.
Proper mechanims needed
Habumuremyi called for proper mechanisms to address food insecurity-related issues, noting that two billion people in the world were at risk of suffering from diet deficiency diseases caused by poor nutrients.
In the country, various initiatives to fight malnutrition have been designed. They include One-Cow-Per-Family (Girinka), and One Cup of Milk per Child where children in school are fed on milk to help eliminate malnutrition.
A 1000 days campaign was also launched last year to combat malnutrition and to improve maternal and child health in the country.
Robin Graham, a biology professor from Flinders University in Australia, said countries needed to invest in developing soil fertility to yield more crops.
He said more efforts are still needed to invest in scientific analysis of quality seeds that suit certain environments.
“Every human being needs at least to have food that has over 70 per cent of nutrients in order to be healthy,” Prof. Graham said.
Peter Adeyemo, a farmer from Nigeria, said awareness among governments in Africa had been accelerated, but what remains to be done is to produce enough seeds and distribute them to farmers in time.
“People are eating food without considering whether they have food nutrients or not; some people just chew because they are hungry and I think awareness is needed,” he said.
Agriculture minister Agnes Kalibata said government had introduced ionic beans to farmers to encourage growing of crops that have nutrients.
More than 700,000 farmers have benefited from the new programme.
Dr Kalibata said new seeds varieties for cassava and potatoes were being distributed to farmers to improve nutritious food productivity.
Kirimi Isindi, a Rwandan farmer who specialised in fortifying potatoes into biscuits, said their main challenge was to get enough potato seeds because under crop intensification programme, more emphasis had been put on maize, cassava and beans.