Mission and Vision
In 2016, thanks to extraordinary effort of HarvestPlus's partners, more than 25 million people were reached with nutritious biofortified crops. By more than doubling our target working countries, the projected impact will exponentially increase, creating a ripple effect of biofortified seed supply to connected markets in the region. By 2030, HarvestPlus hopes that over 1 billion people will benefit from biofortification.
Through our work, HarvestPlus, in conjunction with IFPRI and the greater CGIAR system,also hopes to build up the agricultural research community at-large by producing greater impact data for a more robust evidence base.We are also working tirelessly to expand the community of seed producers, farmers, researchers, and suppliers, to create a more sustainable value chain in each country we work within.
HarvestPlus focuses on three crucial micronutrients that are most limited in the diets of the empoverished—vitamin A, zinc, and iron—and breeds these into key staplecrops that already make up the diets of our target beneficiaries. HarvestPlus screens thousands of different types of crop seeds stored in seed banks that have naturally higher amounts of these micronutrients, andour nutritional genomicists use tools such as marker-assisted selection to breed new, healthier crop varieties.
How does your innovation work?
Conventional plant breeding is not new—it began hundreds of years ago. Farmers have been altering the genetic makeup of the crops they grow for the past eight to ten thousand years—since the dawn of agriculture. Early farmers chose the best looking plants and seeds and saved them for next year’s planting. As the science of genetics became better understood, plant breeders were able to select certain desirable traits in a plant to create improved varieties of plants.
HarvestPlus focuses on three crucial micronutrients that are most limited in the diets of the poor—vitamin A, zinc, and iron—and breed these into key staplecrops. HarvestPlus screens thousands of different types of crop seeds stored in seed banks that have naturally higher amounts of iron, zinc, and vitamin A. Our nutritional genomicists use tools such as marker-assisted selection to help speed up the breeding process. We use these more nutritious seeds to breed new crop varieties with higher micronutrient content that are also high yielding and have other traits farmers want.
HarvestPlus, together with farmers, test these new varieties in the target region. We partner with farmers during the testing phase to ensure buy-in from the farming communities. We also conduct studies to ensure that these new crops have sufficient amounts of the nutrient needed to improve nutrition. The national government then officially releases the best-performing varieties of micronutrient-rich crops for farming communities to grow, eat, and sell in local markets.
Biofortification is a unique agricultural innovation that impacts nutrition and subsequent health for such a low level of effort. Even behavior change is at a minimum, as biofortified crops do not disrupt the traditionalstaple diets of the beneficiary populations, but rather enhance the ingredients. Additionally, biofortified varieties are bred to maintain (or exceed) yield and hardiness when compared to baseline varieties in the same region.
Planned Goals and Milestones
In target countries— Rwanda,Uganda,Nigeria,Zambia,the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),India,Bangladesh, andPakistan— HarvestPlus works to ensure farmers not only grow the more nutritious food but consume it as well. Delivery managers work with national partners to register and release new micronutrient-rich crop varieties in target countries. We engage with seed and extension systems to ensure that the crops are widely available and promoted to farmers. Our teams include marketing experts and behavior change specialists who collaborate with local organizations and communities to educate consumers on the benefits of eating these new crops. These new varieties must satisfy consumer tastes and have enough micronutrients to reduce malnutrition among rural communities that will grow and eat these foods regularly.
In most cases, these foods look and taste the same as the most commonly eaten variety. When there is a detectable change, as in the case of vitamin A-rich crops that tend to be yellow to orange in color, HarvestPlus and our partners educate consumers on the nutritional benefits of these new varieties and encourage people to make the switch. When eaten regularly, these micronutrient-rich foods work to contribute to body stores of micronutrients—reducing hidden hunger in malnourished communities.
With this said, HarvestPlus is working with both public and private sector partners to increase the production of widely-adaptable biofortified seed to rural farmers in an expanded target demographic (30 countries globally). By drawing in multinational and local private producers and others along the value chain, the goal is to reduce HarvestPlus direct management by creating a sustainable system far beyond the life of any program.
In the short term, under the larger target of reaching 1 billion people by 2030, HarvestPlus is focused on ramping up seed breeding and dissemination in the Asia region over the next several years.
The next steps for HarvestPlus is drawing in more investers to help scale biofortified crops in each of the regions where we work. Currently, demand outweights the supply of biofortified seed, so we are working with more suppliers and distributors to create a greater output for each market.
Multilateral partnerships, particularly PPP's, need to be forged to ensure greater chances for sustainability in each system that we build. Ramping up advocacy for policy incorporation of biofortification, at the government-level, is also a key next step for our team.