Howarth “Howdy” Bouis, Director of HarvestPlus, a joint venture by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), won the 2016 World Food Prize. Three scientists from the International Potato Center (CIP), Drs. Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, and Jan Low, have been announced as fellow winners.
“This prestigious award recognizes Howdy’s 25 years of pioneering work in expanding the impact of biofortification,” said IFPRI Director General Shenggen Fan. “His work to reduce hidden hunger has improved the health of millions of people in Asia, Africa and Latin America—and that number could balloon to several hundred million in the coming decades.”
Biofortification is a process that breeds critical vitamins and micronutrients directly into staple crops to improve their nutritional quality. Bouis recognized early that what mattered was not just how many calories people get, but the nutritional value contained in their food. Today, more than 2 billion people—one in three of us—don’t get enough essential vitamins and minerals.
Micronutrient deficiencies, or “hidden hunger,” are leading causes of easily-preventable deaths.Undernutrition contributes to almost half of deaths in children under 5. More than one in three children under 5 is stunted in most parts of Africa and South Asia.
Bouis’ work has paved the way for biofortified crops, including iron- and zinc-fortified beans, rice, wheat, and pearl millet and vitamin A–fortified cassava, maize, and orange-fleshed sweet potato, which are now being tested or released in over 40 countries.
“It’s a tremendous honor to win the World Food Prize, and I am particularly excited to expand the work we’re doing at HarvestPlus,” said Bouis. “Biofortified crops are more disease resistant, have higher yields, and are leaps and bounds better nutritionally. And they’re making a visible impact on the lives of poorest population.”
Created in 1986 by Nobel laureate and “father of the Green Revolution” Norman Borlaug, the World Food Prize is the foremost global award recognizing individuals whose breakthrough achievements alleviate hunger and promote global food security.
The award will be presented on October 13 at the state capitol in Des Moines, Iowa, as the centerpiece of the three-day 2016 Borlaug Dialogue. The four laureates will share a $250,000 prize. Previous winners of the award include former President of Ghana John Kufour; U.S. Senators Bob Dole and George McGovern; Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus; former IFPRI Director General Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen; Professor Yuan Longping of China; and former Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme Catherine Bertini.
HarvestPlus in Bangladesh
HarvestPlus and partners are improving the health of Bangladeshi women and children
in Bangladesh with zinc deficiency through the introduction of zinc biofortified rice varieties for production and consumption by smallholder farm households.
Working with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), HarvestPlus researchers are working to increase the amount of zinc in new varieties of rice while also helping Bangladeshi farmers deal with the unpredictable effects of a changing climate.
With the help of partners, HarvestPlus Bangladesh program aims to further develop and widely disseminate high-yielding, comparatively disease and pest tolerant through biofortified rice varieties which will provide more than 70% of daily zinc needs to target communities.
Under the support of HarvestPlus, five zinc biofortified rice varieties have been nationally released in Bangladesh with high yield and beneficial agronomic traits desired by farmers.
Out of which, four inbred varieties were released by BRRI and one hybrid variety by BSMRAU.
Among the 64 districts of Bangladesh, in 2015 HarvestPlus has covered 58 districts – reaching 50,000 farm households in 350 upazilas and in 2016 it expanded its operation in 64 districts covering around 500,000 farm households.
Currently, HarvestPlus is working with 6 government organizations, 25 NGOs, and 2 seed multiplier associations (300 companies). Multiplication partners are being trained on zinc rice seed production and preservation. HarvestPlus is currently expanding its partnerships to reach more smallholder farmers and consumers in more geographically diverse regions of the country.