Foreword [Volume 17 No. 2 (2017)]
Finally we are here. Let me right upfront express profound appreciation to Amy Saltzman, a researcher at HarvestPlus, who has worked tirelessly with the AJFAND team to ensure a smooth running of what turned out to be a fairly long process to the realization of this Special Issue on Biofortification. Dr Howarth Bouis (revered and popularly referred to as “Howdy”) starting about 5 years ago was very keen to have AJFAND publish a Special Issue on Biofortification. Whenever we met, he or someone else on his Program Advisory Committee (PAC) would bring it up and my response would be “sure, just let me know when you are ready”. Well, then exactly 2 years ago after we met at a conference in Switzerland, Dr Bouis forwarded the first set of manuscripts and we agreed that they go through internal review first before submitting to AJFAND. After all, the number of authors involved was large, and the group fairly diverse. I recall when I joined the very first PAC, of HarvestPlus, the first product we addressed was the orange fleshed sweet potato. That was years ago, in the early 1990’s. From 1993, Howdy was determined in his belief that biofortification could be a huge answer to world hunger and micronutrient deficiency problems; we watched him grey and I recall several times telling him: “One of these days, you will receive an award for this work you are doing”. He would just smile. I am happy that it has finally come to pass. I remember when Dr Per Pinstrup Anderson called me to ask whether I could join the HarvestPlus PAC. He said: “Ruth, I am calling you from Washington DC. And you have to say YES, otherwise I will not get off the phone”. Well, I had to agree. Dr Anderson was then the well- respected Director General of IFPRI and a good friend, and both his height and voice are always very convincing. That is one scientist I truly respect. This PAC, chaired by Dr Peter MacPherson, former USAID Administrator and past President of Michigan State University was an ambitious one but also extremely supportive of Howdy’s work. IFPRI too, the home of HarvestPlus demonstrated unwavering support and especially at times when no funding appeared to be forthcoming. Somehow all these people and many more believed in what Howdy was spearheading. Research takes time, but convincing many people to come along with you on something that is not yet tangible takes some skill and a lot of good luck. When you look at Howdy and listen to his story, it is difficult not to believe him. His determination and devotion to this cause has yielded fruits, real results. Yes, there is still a lot to do, but at least the foundation has been laid, and the proof of concept achieved. From 1993, to the present time, nearly 25 years, Africa has gone through many cycles of drought and hunger. As I write this, 17 million people are afflicted by famine in the Horn of Africa. The good thing about the orange fleshed sweet potato is its judicious use of water. So, it does better than many tubers in limited rainfall. This point was seriously emphasized at a recent CIP (International Potato Centre) meeting I attended in Kisumu.
It was amazing at the same meeting to learn of the multitude of products and especially snacks for both adults and children that can be made from orange and purple sweet potatoes.
This special issue of AJFAND has a lot to teach all of us: policy makers, researchers/scientists, farmers, donors, practitioners, consumers, private sector and job seekers. Patience pays, and together we can solve some of the world’s problems when we put our minds to it. I wish to congratulate all who have put effort for us to realize this issue, which can now be shared with interested parties across the world, and also to those who have devoted years of their professional careers to biofortification. Because of their unwavering resolve, billions of the world’s hungriest can access affordable food-based micronutrients.
Congratulations go to Dr Howarth Bouis and his team for receiving the 2016 World Food Prize, and we at AJFAND thank you so much for affording us the opportunity to publish this work. SCIENCE matters, and research is the mother of innovation, and all these efforts need to be supported, as it is the only way to address the ever increasing world problems. Hunger and malnutrition should be problems of the past in this 21st century.
I thank all AJFAND staff and reviewers for the mazing contributions they have made towards the finalization of this issue on BIOFORTIFICATION.