Preface [Volume 17 No. 2 (2017)]

Special Issue devoted to Biofortification

HE Tumusiime Rhoda Peace

I am pleased to introduce this special issue of the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition, and Development devoted to biofortification. The African Union Commission considers biofortification to be of great importance in the accelerated and sustainable fight against malnutrition. Under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Framework and the Malabo Declaration, the African Union Commission has committed to attaining an agriculture revolution to achieve a 2025 vision for shared prosperity and improved livelihoods in Africa. This vision includes a commitment to ending hunger and improving nutrition, and we believe that biofortification – complemented by strategies like supplementation and fortification – is key. Agriculture remains the backbone of the survival and sustenance of our households, communities, and nations. Biofortification is an intervention that, when implemented, has the potential to lift people out of poverty while advancing food and nutrition.

As this special issue demonstrates, the bulk of the evidence on biofortification thus far comes from Africa. For more than a decade, HarvestPlus and its CGIAR and national partners have developed over 150 varieties of 11 micronutrient-rich staples, including rice, wheat, maize, sweet potato, beans, cassava and pearl millet, that are being grown in more than 30 countries (19 in Africa) and tested for release in another 25 (15 in Africa). With the exception of orange sweet potato which was available earlier, the remaining ten biofortified crops have been actively disseminated since 2012, and 15 million people are already growing and consuming these nutrient-rich varieties, over 80% of whom are in Africa. As a program coordinated by two international agricultural research centers in the CGIAR, HarvestPlus is research-oriented and evidence-based. This special issue compiles and presents existing evidence on biofortification, identifies knowledge gaps, and discusses how to leverage biofortification to improve nutrition and health, especially in Africa.

In addition to reviewing the research and evidence that the CGIAR and its partners have gathered, this issue includes some of the first articles by practitioners, assessing the delivery experience of biofortified crops across several countries and through various delivery channels. By now, we know well the success story of vitamin A orange sweet potato (OSP), which reduces the risk of vitamin A deficiency among those who consume it. Recent research suggests additional health benefits, including reduced prevalence and duration of diarrhea in children under five who consume OSP. The well-known OSP story is now joined by success stories of iron beans, vitamin A cassava, and vitamin A maize.

These successes must be scaled up in policies, programs, and leadership at the country level. Beyond financial investments, commitment and goodwill, as well as investment plans and implementation, are essential to scaling. Several countries have included biofortification in their CAADP strategies, and I hope that they will be joined by others. Together, we can achieve an Africa that is food and nutrition secure and, therefore, dignified, at peace with itself, prosperous and secure.

I wish you enjoyable reading.

HE Tumusiime Rhoda Peace
Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture
African Union Commission