By Priya Bapat
During the first week of April, HarvestPlus held its 2nd Global Conference on Biofortification, co-hosted by the government of Rwanda in Kigali. The 1st Conference, held in Washington, DC in 2010, served as a bridge between the first two of three planned phases for HarvestPlus – Discovery and Development. The 2nd Conference marked the transition from the Development phase to Delivery – how to integrate and scale nutrient-rich, biofortified crop varieties to ensure they reach people most in need.
By the end of 2013, 1.5 million farmer households in Africa, South Asia and Latin America planted at least one variety of biofortified crops. As this figure continues to grow, it is essential that governments, companies, international organizations, and NGOs work together to plan how biofortified, nutrient-rich crops can be integrated within national food and nutrition security strategies to ensure a focused, effective approach toward creating a zero hunger world.
At the Conference, more than 250 attendees from across sectors with diverse areas of expertise in food and nutrition security, including World Food Prize Laureate Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, Prime Minister of Rwanda Pierre Habumuremyi, Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources for Rwanda Dr. Agnes Kalibata, and Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development for Nigeria Dr. Akin Adesina, discussed how best to take on this challenge. Through panel discussions, keynote speeches and participatory sessions, leaders from around the world discussed issues related to nutrition-sensitive agriculture and malnutrition in general as well as those specific to biofortification.
In order to bring nutrient-rich crops to scale, participants emphasized that similar to other interventions to reduce malnutrition, biofortification interventions need to take into account related issues and initiatives. This includes the need for a gender-sensitive approach and the importance of also recognizing the 1,000 Days window of opportunity.
Beyond discussing the challenges at hand, conference attendees also highlighted activities to expand the use of biofortified crops in national food systems, such as:
- Improving inter-sectoral, national-level collaboration
- Creating demand for biofortified crops
- Increasing investments in crop development and research
- Building the evidence base
Sector-specific calls to action were also identified, outlining specific steps that national governments, donors, the private sector, international organizations and the research community could take to leverage their skills and expertise to scale the use of biofortified crops.
At the end of the Conference, participants drafted Kigali principles coming out of the conference, outlining the opportunities and the way forward to bring nutrient-rich crops to more people. While the discussions and steps outlined during the Conference show a promising path forward, the true test is whether these strong ideas and commitments are translated into action.
For more information, all conference information is available online, including links to videos from keynote speeches.