Responding to Crisis, Building Resilience 2020 at a Glance

Responding to Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic upended lives, food systems, societies, and economies worldwide during 2020 and continues to do so in 2021. For smallholder farming families, threats to their food and nutrition security, health, and livelihoods were immediate and often dire.

The HarvestPlus team worked closely with its public, private, and NGO partners to innovate and adopt new methods of reaching and supporting farming families, so they could continue to grow and benefit from their nutrient-enriched crops—and remain connected to markets where they could sell surplus harvest.

A Multipronged Strategy

The pandemic response by HarvestPlus and its partners in Nigeria is an example of how country teams were involved in comprehensive initiatives to ensure the availability of planting material for farmers, support post-harvest value chain actors, and address immediate humanitarian threats by contributing to relief efforts. Learn more in this video:

Reaching the Most Vulnerable

HarvestPlus launched a six-country rapid-response project in 2020, funded by the Government of Canada, to address immediate threats to food, nutrition, and livelihood security from the pandemic. Vulnerable farming families will be equipped to grow biofortified crops, with a focus on reaching and empowering women farmers and women-led food SMEs.

Getting Zinc Rice to the People

COVID-19 severely impacted the lives of farming families across Bangladesh, greatly increasing their risk of food and nutrition security, even though the government exempted the agriculture sector from many restrictions. Measures taken by Harvestplus to sustain access to zinc-biofortified rice included joining other stakeholders to advocate for a rice subsidy, contributing to food and health donation packages, and distributing relief rice seed to farmers. Learn more in this video:

Scaling Up to Build Resilience

As governments and global agencies addressed the immediate threats from COVID-19, many also took measures to accelerate the scale up of biofortified crops and foods over the longer term, recognizing that they deliver micronutrient resilience to those most in need, especially in times of shock.

New Commitments in India

The Indian national government and the government of Bihar state made strong commitments to scaling up biofortification in 2020. The Prime Minister endorsed biofortified crops as an important element in official efforts to improve nutrition. Bihar committed to rapid expansion of zinc wheat seed production.

Tanzania Sets an Example

The government of Tanzania issued detailed guidelines for biofortification activity across seed and food value chains that serve as a model for other countries. The guidelines are a reference point for value chain participants to spur faster integration of biofortified seeds, grains, and foods in the food system.

Breeding Seeds for Nutrition

A top priority for scaling up biofortification on the supply side is to make it a core element in public and private staple crop breeding programs, at both the global and national levels. Mainstreaming efforts among the CGIAR global agricultural research centers, which supply improved staple crop varieties to hundreds of countries, started in earnest during 2020, particularly with zinc wheat and iron pearl millet.

Empowering Women with Nutritious Crops

Women are priority beneficiaries in every aspect advancing biofortification, starting with crop development, where micronutrient levels are set to meet reproductive-age women’s specific nutritional requirements. The crops are also bred to provide practical value for rural women—for example, by reducing cooking time of iron beans, or increasing levels of dry matter in vitamin A cassava to facilitate processing typically done by women. HarvestPlus engagement with women focuses on empowering them as family members, as farmers, and as entrepreneurs.

Women in the Family: SmartMothers

HarvestPlus Nigeria facilitates the SmartMother Platform to educate and rally mothers around the need to ensure good nutrition for themselves, their young children, and everyone in their families. The platform supports champion SmartMothers who hold community sensitization programs to share nutrition information with other mothers, and provide guidance on making foods from biofortified crops for household consumption as well as income generation.

Women as Farmers: Taking the Prize

Emelda Ngwarati grows vitamin A-biofortified orange maize and iron-biofortified beans in Mazowe District, Zimbabwe. She also claimed the top prize for her harvest at the 2020 Zimbabwe Agricultural Show, receiving a trophy from the President of Zimbabwe. “I could not believe my ears when I heard my name being called out,” she said.

Women as Entrepreneurs: Seeding a Livelihood

Pramila Devi has gone from farming zinc wheat to running a seed supply business for farmers near her village in the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh, India. She was only one of seven women farmers growing zinc wheat when she started doing so in 2018, Now, in part thanks to her seed business, 91 nearby women farmers are doing so.

Advancing Nutritious Crops

Numbers indicate multiple varieties released. *Includes zinc as a secondary target nutrient.
HarvestPlus improves nutrition and public health by developing and promoting biofortified food crops that are rich in vitamins and minerals, and providing leadership on biofortification evidence and technology. HarvestPlus is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) and is based at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).