Providing Healthier Food for Smallholder Farmers

Nutrition is both a maker and a marker of development. Improved nutrition is the platform for progress in health, education, employment, empowerment of women and the reduction of poverty and inequality, and can lay the foundation for peaceful, secure and stable societies.”

Ban Ki-moon, United Nations 8th Secretary General, a message for the SUN Movement Strategy and Roadmap (2016-2020)

Health, they say, is wealth. The work we do addresses the creation of wealth for smallholder farmers by harnessing the huge potentials in the agricultural sector through creating jobs, defeating hunger, curbing youth unemployment and giving youth an incentive not to join insurgent groups. However, within the broader context of the work we do, we create another kind of wealth. This wealth we create, is in the access to healthier food we provide to hundreds of thousands of rural men, women and children.

Leveraging agricultural innovations in our work has helped us to succeed in this. Of particular importance is our use of provitamin A, bio-fortified maize seeds among our farmers. Biofortification is the process of increasing the nutrient content in the edible parts of a plant, achieved primarily through plant breeding or mineral fertilization, enhancing their mineral density and bioavailability (Nosratpour and Jafari 2019; Rosell, 2016). Biofortification has been identified as a cost-effective channel for ensuring increased micronutrient intake among populations with limited access to a varied, healthy diet.

There are two (2) major advantages to the use of bio-fortified seeds:

  1. Addressing the challenge of hidden hunger (also referred to as ‘micronutrient deficiency’, a vitamin or mineral deficiency which usually occurs as a result of poor nutrition among populations without access to diverse diets)
  2. Research suggests that biofortification is key in reducing the aflatoxin load in bio-fortified seeds, thus limiting aflatoxin poisoning.

To further drive our goal of providing our farmers with healthier, more nutritious food, we partnered with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), a part of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and other partners to train and drive the adoption of Aflasafe©, a bio-control for aflatoxin, among our member farmers. This initiative successfully led to increased commercialization and uptake of Aflasafe© amongst a significant number of smallholder farmers. Benefits of Aflasafe©, an environmentally friendly product sourced from nature include its effectiveness in drastically cutting aflatoxin in grains, thus protecting the food and keeping it safe from toxins through the period of storage until final consumption.

Lastly, our core business in providing agricultural inputs, financial credit, training, harvest and marketing services to farmers has played a key role in improving farmers’ livelihoods through add-on effects such as increasing their disposable income to allow access to better healthcare, increased investment in livelihood enhancement assets, such as mosquito nets, as well as better water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes. Through these concerted efforts we have till date provided over 280,000 rural men, women and children with access to nutritious food.

Find below our week’s line-up of our favourite articles on the subject of biofortification and aflatoxin poisoning.

Cowan C. (2019) New publications: Biofortification of maize with provitamin A can reduce aflatoxin load 

Nosratpour M, Jafari S.M (2019) Mineral Biofortification Encyclopedia of Food Chemistry

Keizire, B (2019) Time for multiple sectors to fight aflatoxin in Africa

World Health Organization (2019) Biofortification 

 

 

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