On Thursday, 30 April, Dr Howarth Bouis, Director of HarvestPlus, visited Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The meeting brought together national and international partners working in the field of food security and nutrition to discuss the activities of HarvestPlus worldwide and in particular those executed in the DRC.
There were 40 participants in the meeting from the following institutions: the Prime Minister’s office; National Seed Service, (SENASEM), National Institute of Agronomic Studies and Research (INERA), the secretary of Rural Development, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Smart Development Works, IITA, World Food Program, UNICEF, Mercy Corps, Catholic Relief Service, Helen Keller Foundation, and the international and local press.
The meeting talked about the mission and activities of HarvestPlus in DRC, which is to contribute not only to food security but also in the fight against malnutrition by promoting biofortified crops rich in vitamin A, iron, and zinc. During the meeting HarvestPlus emphasized the importance of capacity building for national services such as SENASEM, INERA, and other stakeholders, including local structures for the ownership and sustainability of activities for improving the livelihood of the Congolese people living in rural areas.
Prior to this meeting, Dr Bouis, accompanied by Dr Antoine Lubobo and Ir. Sylvain Bidiaka, the Country Managers of HarvestPlus-DRC, was received at the Prime Minister’s office, USAID, and the Canadian and Belgian cooperative projects in DRC to discuss the program and its future prospects.
In DRC, HarvestPlus is currently concentrating on cassava rich in vitamin A and beans rich in iron and zinc. The challenge is to improve the habits and mind set of Congolese citizens to consume not only the right quantity but also the right quality of food, especially with its food diversification strategy. These biofortified varieties of cassava and beans are registered in the national catalog published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock. They are being spread among the beneficiaries in partnership with local organizations.
Biofortification is an integrated and multi-sector strategy for improving nutrition and well-being. It is a conventional method for improving plants without genetic manipulation to increase the micronutrient content in agricultural crops.
HarvestPlus is also a member of CGIAR) and is coordinated by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Research Institute for Food Policy (IFPRI). In DRC, HarvestPlus activities carried out under cassava and maize are conducted in partnership with IITA, INERA, and local universities.