Unity builds strength and also boosts nutrition
Led by ICTA and supported by HarvestPlus, the BioFORT Platform is a multisectoral endeavor that coordinates research, development and promotion of biofortified crops to improve nutrition in Guatemala, a nation affected by high rates of hidden hunger.
Context of the story
Guatemala has the highest rates of malnutrition in Latin America and the third highest in the world.
In Guatemala, chronic malnutrition affects 46.5% of all children under 5 years of age, 32.4% of whom suffer from hidden hunger due to diets insufficient in iron, zinc and provitamin A. These deficiencies cause stunting, poor cognitive development, and blindness.
To tackle the challenge of increasing the amount of micronutrients in traditional foods, the country decided tobiofortify corn and beans, among other significant sources of iron and zinc for children and pregnant or lactating women.
Allies against hidden hunger
The implemented initiative
Led by the Institute for Agricultural Science and Technology (ICTA) and with the support of HarvestPlus, the world’s leading authority on biofortification, the BioFORT Platform was created in 2015.
This alliance, made up of government institutions, non-governmental organizations, universities, seed producers, and civil society, coordinates research and development efforts to promote the production and consumption of biofortified crops.
Its objective is to strengthen the nutritional status of the Guatemalan population.
Generating seeds, spreading knowledge
The technological solution
With the help of HarvestPlus, Guatemala obtained the basic genetic materials of corn, beans and sweet potatoes.
BioFORT conducted field trials and implemented the release of biofortified crops.
To encourage adoption by farmers, BioFORT selected the improved crops according to their adaptability and productivity relative to traditional varieties.
The alliance also carried out product measurements to ensure, among other advantages, suitable grain size, pleasant flavor and short cooking time.
Only then were the biofortified seeds released, legally registered for potential commercial use, and, once multiplied, offered to producers.
The alliance launcheda technology transfer andtraining plan to help families adopt these crops.
Within two years after the release of the biofortified varieties, the beneficiary population was surveyed to estimate indices of agronomic performance and acceptability.
"With these seeds we help improve children's nutrition, that is why we promote them among our partners."
In four years, BioFORT has tackled malnutrition in 15 of the 22 departments of Guatemala.
The platform has directly benefited 88,004 farmers and indirectly more than half a million family members who consume beans, corn and sweet potatoes biofortified with iron, zinc and provitamin A.
The production tonnage and the cultivated area have grown steadily since the platform’s inception.
Some platform partners have joined in the production of certified corn and bean seed. Since these products are public goods, they can be saved for future campaigns, providing sustainability to the initiative.
The platform has conducted extensive acceptability studies of biofortified crops.