Children in Rwanda eat a nutritious meal of beans and tomato at a World Vision supported Nutrition Centre. Photo by Lucy Aulich, World Vision
Have you ever heard an African Pop song about high iron beans? If not, today is your lucky day – have a look at this video, produced by HarvestPlus to promote their bio-fortified beans!
It’s actually quite simple. World Vision is working to improve nutrition in Rwanda, a country where 44 per cent of people suffer from malnutrition and micro nutrient deficiency. One in three Rwandan’s are anaemic, and and lack of iron can lead to lowered resistance to disease, energy levels and even IQ and learning capacity. Despite Rwanda’s reputation as a country of green rolling hills, the country is crowded – it has double the population of Victoria living on land 1/9th the size. That means there isn’t enough space to grow quality food for everyone.
Most of World Vision’s projects integrate agriculture with nutrition, helping people to grow nutrient-rich crops. Not only do these projects address ‘hidden hunger’ or micro nutrient deficiency, they also help people get out of poverty by providing crops with better yield so farmers can take advantage of market prices.
World Vision has been working closely in this area with HarvestPlus since 2005, as both organisations have complementary skills. HarvestPlus supports breeding programs of bio fortified crops that are improving nutrition. Bio-fortification just means increasing the content of micro nutrients in a food, so that the food is more nutritious.
The beans they are singing about in the video have high nutritional levels and provide up to 45 per cent of daily iron needs, which is 14 per cent more than commonly-grown bean varieties. They also have an extra advantage as they have proved to produce high yields, are resistant to viruses, and are heat and drought tolerant.
HarvestPlus does studies to ensure that their crop is making a difference – and then they hand the idea over to World Vision so we can scale it up in neighbouring countries.
“World Vision has the reach and depth of experience needed to spread these crops through rural communities worldwide. We’re committed to exploring how we can do this together – to reach more people, more quickly, with nutritious foods,” says HarvestPlus Director Howarth Bouis.
At the moment, World Vision is implementing bio fortified crops in more than 10 countries and we’ve had success in the past with crops like Vitamin A rich sweet potatoes in Uganda. As part of the process, HarvestPlus does research to figure out which countries will benefit most.
For example, in Burundi 92 per cent of the population grow and eat beans so we know there would be a big impact. Beans can be transported long distances so high iron beans grown in Burundi could be helping people in the slums of Tanzania who are more likely to be able to afford beans than meat.
We look at the crop, where people are growing it, and how big the impact could be as well as a number of other factors before World Vision gets involved. It’s all to make sure that we’re investing our time and donors money in the most effective ways possible.