Improving nutrition among vulnerable populations is a major goal of NCBA CLUSA International's food security efforts.
Food security has traditionally focused on promoting the production of staple crops that provide carbohydrates, lipids and protein. However, in the last few years, food security experts have come to understand the importance of ensuring increased consumption of micronutrients. Malnourished people, especially children, often lack the essential vitamins and minerals that their bodies need to keep them in good health. However, many challenges exist that prevent manufactured dietary supplements from being a sustainable, cost-effective solution to the problem. Cost, accessibility, cultural practices and lack of information all contribute to the slow progress of improving micronutrient intake in developing countries.
In Senegal, CLUSA International, funded by USAID, is responding directly to this issue by promoting biofortified varieties. Biofortification is a process whereby selective cross-breeding results in increased micronutrient content. An important example of effective biofortification that is resolving critical health concerns in Africa is the orange sweet potato. Northern American varieties of orange sweet potatoes are being cross-bred with local African yellow and white sweet potatoes to create new hybrid varieties that are both high in Vitamin A content and resistent to local diseases. Vitamin A is critical to physical and cognitive development in children.
In this story, NPR reporter, Dan Charles, describes how biofortification efforts are saving lives in Africa. CLUSA is working with IFPRI and other partners to integrate these innovations into its Senegal “Yaajeende” project to promote food security and nutrition for over 500,000 people. Click here to listen to the full story.