AU Meeting Highlights Biofortified Crop Variety Access Limitations

African nations, alongside international partners, convened in Lusaka, Zambia, to assess progress and strategize on enhancing access to biofortified seeds. PHOTO/COURTESY

Zambia | THE BLACK EXAMINER | African nations and international partners recently gathered in Lusaka, Zambia, to assess and strategize on improving access to biofortified seeds, a key solution for addressing malnutrition in the region.

The meeting brought together a diverse group of participants, including the African Union Commission (AUC), regional economic communities, national food and nutrition security agencies, research institutions, private sector entities, and farmer organizations. They convened to evaluate the progress of the biofortification framework endorsed by the African Union (AU) policy organs.

Biofortification aims to enhance the nutritional content of staple crops, offering a sustainable approach to combat malnutrition, particularly in rural communities reliant on subsistence farming.

During the event, it was disclosed that more than 175 biofortified varieties of 13 staple crops have been tested or introduced in 39 African countries. However, the majority of farmers still face challenges in accessing these varieties. The meeting introduced the Africa Biofortification Performance Index, a tool designed to monitor the adoption of biofortified crops.

Private companies from Nigeria, Zambia, and Malawi also showcased innovative products derived from biofortified crops, such as cassava flour, snacks, soups, and breakfast cereals. These efforts have already had a positive impact on over 10.3 million smallholder farm households, enhancing their nutritional resilience.

Ms. Beatrice Egulu Nakacwa, a representative of the Agriculture and Rural Development Directorate of the African Union, stressed the urgency of implementing the declaration on Food Fortification and Biofortification, endorsed by the AU’s Heads of States and Governments in February 2021. She commended stakeholders for their contributions to research, advocacy, knowledge sharing, and policy development and emphasized the importance of strengthening data systems at regional and national levels for informed decision-making and policy formulation.

The meeting resulted in the development of a comprehensive Action Plan focused on three key pillars: advocating for policy knowledge and seed variety policies, boosting the demand and marketability of biofortified products, and expediting the release, licensing, and commercialization of biofortified seed varieties. Stakeholders pledged to collaborate closely to drive the implementation of biofortified seeds across the African continent.

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Mimi Nina Lakhani
Mimi Nina Lakhani
I'm Nina, a Kenyan-born Tanzanian. I write about politics, business, investment, oil and gas, and climate. Reporting from Nairobi, Kenya. Daily News Tanzania (Tanzania) | Tuko (Kenya) | Eye Radio (South Sudan) | The Black Examiner (Uganda)