The Chikumbus are one of an estimated 300,000 households in the 12 LFSP operating districts who now grow and consume biofortified crops. “As a farming family, we are happy because we are now growing healthy food crops such as orange maize and high iron beans for ourselves,” said Sophia.
“We are now renowned orange maize farmers in this area. I now realize that there are more nutritious staples that we can grow to complement our consumption of maize and that’s why we have dedicated some land to iron bean production,” said John.
Julio is one of the farmers who has been most involved with growing biofortified crops, and for him it is very important to plant both beans and maize because it allows him to generate employment. In any busy season, he is able to hire up to 15 people from his community. In addition, these crops have allowed his six nephews to generate income for their studies, since each one has been assigned a percentage of land to cultivate and produce.
"For me, the price of biofortified crops is much higher than non-biofortified crops. If I sell traditional maize seed I get paid 1 quetzal (about 13 USD) per kilogram. I get paid 400 quetzals (about 52 USD) for biofortified crops. It gives me a lot of margin."
Before she adopted OSP and iron beans, Justine’s children were often sick from diseases like diarrhea and they even had skin rashes. “After feeding my children regularly with OSP and iron beans, I started noticing changes in their health. They were not falling sick like they used to, and even the rashes had disappeared”, says Justine.
“I’m able to buy small household necessities with this weekly money. I can now also say I have a weekly income,” Justine said with a smile. “I have tried to share the OSP vines and iron beans with my neighbors and other family members that didn’t get these crops so that everyone in my village can benefit,” she added.
"I come from a farming family. One of my grandparents was a coffee farmer, the other a cattle rancher. My father and mother were raised in the city but I spent time with my grandparents. Since those years I adored the countryside," said Nolberto, whose farm is about 1,900 meters above sea level. "I live better now than I did before. I only hope I can live my whole life here in the countryside growing nourishing crops for my family," he said.
"With what I have planted, which is two rows, I am able to harvest at least one and a half arrobas (about 12 kg). That can last me at least four months. And in the area there are at least five producers who are planting biofortified crops, since we share the seeds among ourselves. This is very normal in the countryside. The neighbor comes and you say, ‘Have this seed.’ We share seed among ourselves. And in doing so, we share the nutritional value that it provides!"
There has been a noticeable increase in the production and consumption of vitamin A maize and iron bean in the area: 16 biofortified crop demonstration plots were established in the 2018/19 season and another 16 in the 2019/2020 growing season. The demand for biofortified seed in the area is growing such that EHAP procured 1 MT of iron bean and maize seeds in 2020 for its members. A maize yield of 4 MT per hectare was achieved by the beneficiaries. The main aim of the program was to enable beneficiary households produce more nutritious food crops to prevent nutrition deficiency-related illnesses.
"The Hospital continues to register cases related to vitamin A (and other micronutrient) deficiency, hence it is imperative to aggressively continue vitamin A orange maize (production) in the (area) for the benefit of the affected communities," says Donatten Twizelimana, Ekwendeni Hospital Administrator.