Leaders meet to boost nutritious food

ABOUT 300 high-level leaders in government, busines and civil society will converge in Kigali tomorrow for a three-day consultation on how to get nutritious foods to people.

ABOUT 300 high-level leaders in government, busines and civil society will converge in Kigali tomorrow for a three-day consultation on how to get nutritious foods to people.

The meeting is organised by HarvestPlus, a global program to improve nutrition and public health, in partnership with the Government of Rwanda.

HarvestPlus has worked with other partners to develop new varieties of food crops that contain vitamin A, zinc and iron.

The crops are already being grown by more than a million farmers in several countries where more than 500,000 farmers have already planted new varieties of beans rich in iron.

In a statement released on Thursday, the organization said that studies have shown that the new varieties ‘provide nutritional benefits to consumers’ and needed to be disseminated worldwide.

“We’re just beginning to scratch the surface…we want to increase access to these nutritious crops as quickly as possible. Now is the time to bring partners together to figure out how we do this together,” said Howarth Bouis, the Director of HarvestPlus.

Keynote speakers at the conference, include M.S. Swaminathan, a renowned father of India’s Green Revolution; Chris Elias, President of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and, Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2013.

The panel will convene a special session to explore how biofortification, the idea of breeding crops to increase their nutritional value, could help decision makers in developing nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food policies.

The country manager of HarvestPlus, Lister Tiwirai Katsvairo, told The New Times that the target of the conference was to ensure that each and every single farming household gets access to more nutrients, higher yielding as well as more biofortified crops.

“We are not only talking about iron beans that are already a success to have reached 700,000 households, but also we want farmers to get more nutritious maize, yellow potatoes as well as yellow fleshed cassava both rich in vitamin A and very soon rice will be made available,” Katsvairo said.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Tony Nsanganira, welcomed participants to the meeting and congratulated Rwandan farmers who have made efforts at growing nutritious beans and led to the country being chosen as the host of the summit.

“It is the honour to our country for hosting such a conference and stepping ahead for solving nutritional problems. This is evidence that we can do more against hunger as we are on the way to development,” the official said.

HarvestPlus estimates that nearly one in three people globally suffers from a lack of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, zinc and iron in the diet.

The program officials say that this condition – known as hidden hunger – increases the risk of stunting, anemia, blindness, infectious diseases, and even death.

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