AFRICA – African nations, alongside international partners, convened in Lusaka, Zambia, to assess progress and strategize on enhancing access to biofortified seeds.
Biofortification, a process of enhancing the nutritional content of staple crops, is seen as a pivotal solution to combat malnutrition, which affects millions of children and adults across the continent.
Participants, representing a diverse array of stakeholders, including the African Union Commission (AUC), regional economic communities, national food and nutrition security agencies, research institutions, private sector entities, and farmer organizations, came together to evaluate the implementation of the biofortification framework endorsed by the African Union (AU) policy organs.
This initiative seeks to increase the nutrient content in staple food crops, providing a sustainable solution to widespread malnutrition, especially among rural communities engaged in subsistence farming.
During the meeting, it was revealed that more than 175 biofortified varieties of 13 staple crops have been tested or released in 39 African countries.
However, accessibility to these varieties remains a challenge for the majority of farmers. Participants delved into the newly developed Africa Biofortification Performance Index, a tool designed to track the uptake of biofortified varieties.
Additionally, private companies from Nigeria, Zambia, and Malawi showcased a range of innovative products, including cassava flour, snacks, soups, and breakfast cereals, all derived from biofortified crops.
These efforts have already benefited over 10.3 million smallholder farm households, making them nutritionally resilient.
Ms. Beatrice Egulu Nakacwa, the representative of the Agriculture and Rural Development Directorate of the African Union, emphasized the urgent need to accelerate the implementation of the declaration on Food Fortification and Biofortification endorsed by the AU’s Heads of States and Governments in February 2021.
She commended stakeholders for their roles in advancing research, advocacy, knowledge sharing, and policy development. Ms. Nakacwa stressed the importance of strengthening data systems at regional and national levels for informed decision-making and policy formulation.
A coordinated approach
The meeting culminated in the development of a comprehensive Action Plan focusing on three pillars: advocating for policy knowledge and seed variety policies, enhancing demand and marketability of biofortified products, and accelerating the release, licensing, and commercialization of biofortified seed varieties.
Stakeholders enthusiastically embraced their roles and responsibilities, pledging collaborative efforts to drive the implementation of biofortified seeds across the continent.