Posted on 01/14/2013 at 07:25:42 AM by Student BloggerBy Samuel Scott
Rwandans eat a lot of beans. In Africa, the average bean consumption is 17 kg/capita/year; in Rwanda, it's 60 kg/capita/year. Pulses contribute 13% of total calorie consumption per day, the third highest in the world after Niger (19%) and Burundi (14%) (1). Beans are a staple food in Rwanda.
Anemia and iron deficiency is prevalent Rwanda. The country's most recent dietary and health survey estimated that 17% of women are anemic (1). Though the iron status of Rwandans is poorly characterized, my research group recently screened 1000 Rwandan female University students and found that 28% were iron deficient (unpublished data).
HarvestPlus, a non-profit branch of the Consultative Group for International Agriculture Research, uses a traditional plant breeding (non-GM) approach to increase the micronutrient content of staple foods. In Rwanda, HarvestPlus is currently distributing high-iron biofortified beans to combat iron deficiency. Biofortification is process of breeding staple food crops so that they contain higher amount of micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron and zinc.
Average beans consumed in Rwanda contain 54 ppm iron. HarvestPlus has chosen a target of 94 ppm for the high-iron biofortified beans. The beans have been bred to grow well in the region, with traits that local farmers seek. For a closer look at the beans, check out this video.
Combating micronutrient deficiencies is a large task that requires a multi-pronged approach. Biofortification is a cost-effective, sustainable, and targeted solution that has received much recent acclaim due to the success of a vitamin A-fortified sweet potato in Mozambique and Uganda. Other biofortified crops developed by HarvestPlus include iron pearl millet, vitamin A cassava and maize, and zinc rice and wheat.
1. Republic of Rwanda. Demographic and Health Survey 2010. Ministry of Health, Kigali, Rwanda.
2. Akidobe S and Maredia M. Global and regional trends in production, trade and consumption of food legume crops. Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State University. Report submitted on March 27, 2011.