HarvestPlus Unveils Millet Varieties Unveils To Combat Hunger, Malnutrition
In collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), HarvestPlus has produced two iron-rich millet varieties (known as jirani and chakti), which will become the first biofortified varieties of Pearl millets to be released in Africa.
Speaking while unveiling the varieties in Kano on Thursday, the Country Director of Harvestplus, Dr. Yusuf Dollah said the collaborative initiative to develop the varieties was borne out of a need to champion food system transformation which implies that food systems need to move beyond addressing hunger to also address all forms of malnutrition.
Dollah said through the collaboration, HarvestPlus has been able to deliver to Nigerian consumers, vitamin A cassava, and vitamin A maize, and work is progressing at the moment on the development of zinc rice.
According to him, “HarvestPlus was formed in 2003 to complement existing nutrition initiatives through a food-based approach by developing new crop varieties that have high levels of micronutrients and minerals and this is done through conventional breeding efforts (biofortification).
“HarvestPlus is also using this initiative to champion food system transformation, meaning food systems need to move beyond addressing hunger to address all forms of malnutrition. They need to deliver universal access to healthy diets. This again means addressing all forms of malnutrition and ensuring improved diets for all.
“In Nigeria, HarvestPlus works with public, private, and national partners to promote the adoption and scaling of these new nutritious crops and foods, to help bring upon a rapid and nutritious transformation of the Nigerian food system. Through this type of collaboration, HarvestPlus has been able to deliver to Nigerian consumers, vitamin A cassava, and vitamin A maize, and work is progressing at the moment on
the development of zinc rice.
“Today, we are here to inform the world of yet another milestone in ensuring Nigerians have access to these nutritious foods through a collaborative effort between HarvestPlus, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) have produced two iron-rich varieties (known as jirani and chakti), becoming the first biofortified varieties of
Pearl millets to be released in Africa.
Read Also: HarvestPlus Reveals Recipe For BioFortified Food For Malnutrition Reduction
“This initiative builds on scaling efforts in India, where the number of farming households growing iron pearl millet has jumped 395% since 2021.
“With the release of these varieties, Nigeria is well placed to contribute its quota in line with the UN declaration of 2023 as the International Year of the Millets, smallholder farmers can now have access to naturally nutritious, climate-smart varieties of iron pearl millet to help address their need to improve their productivity and household nutrition in the face of global shocks.
“Climate volatility in northern Nigeria is also leading to decreased crop yields, decreased nutrients in some of the staples, increased food prices, and heightened food insecurity—worsening malnutrition. Smallholder farmers are also looking for opportunities to bridge production yield gaps brought about by climatic stress through improved agricultural technologies like nutrient-enriched seeds.
“The iron pearl millet combines higher iron content with other enhanced and preferred farmer traits including higher yield, extra-early maturity, and drought tolerance to provide more nutrition and food security to rural farming communities in arid and drought-prone regions.
“As an affordable dietary source of iron in the region, iron-enriched varieties of pearl millet like chakti and jirani can improve nutrition for millions of farming households—providing up to 80 percent of daily iron needs when eaten regularly. Eating iron pearl millet is a proven way to resolve iron deficiency and enhance the cognitive abilities of adolescents, India has done it and we can also do it,” Dollah however stated.
Earlier, the Executive Director of the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Prof. Baba Gana Kabir Dujugum said the institute has a national mandate for gene improvement of millet, wheat, and barley and has so far released 7 millet varieties with Chakti as the number 5 on the list and has the special attribute of higher iron and zinc content.
According to Dr. Ignatius Angarawai, the Country Representative of ICRISAT, the millet varieties have attributes to combat micronutrient malnutrition.