Biofortification in a Food Chain Approach in West Africa
Case Study #3-6 of the Program: ''Food Policy For Developing Countries: The Role Of Government In The Global Food System''
About 800 million people suffer from hunger, but even more suffer from micronutrient malnutrition, also called “hidden hunger.” Iodine, vitamin A, iron, and zinc malnutrition are major concerns. About 2 billion people, mainly women and young children, suffer from deficiencies of iron and zinc, which lead to impaired growth and development, low daily work output, and increased mortality. The supply of iron (Fe) and zinc (Zn) falls short when people suffer from food shortages, when consumed foods have a low Fe or Zn content, or when absorption of Fe and Zn from consumed food is inhibited by the presence of antinutritional factors such as phytic acid and polyphenols in the diet. Current interventions are dietary diversification, supplementation, and fortification. In West Africa alone more than 80 percent of children and up to 66 percent of women suffer from iron deficiency. In Benin and Burkina Faso the prevalence of micronutrient malnutrition is also high. In these countries the interventions mentioned have only moderate chances of success owing to the low purchasing power of households, lack of elementary logistics, lack of central processing of food, and the high heterogeneity in production and consumption conditions. In 2000 biofortification was introduced as a new policy option at the global level. Biofortification consists of breeding for micronutrients in staple crops. In 2001 the approach was extended to a food chain approach by Wageningen University. This approach to biofortification offers additional opportunities to alleviate micronutrient malnutrition in West Africa, as illustrated by the cases of Benin and Burkina Faso. Preliminary experiences in these two countries challenge current policies toward crop cultivation and nutrition, but also reveal a number of questions to be solved. Your assignment is to advise national policy makers in Benin or Burkina Faso about which strategy or combination of strategies they should choose to solve iron and zinc deficiencies in rural and urban sorghum-growing and -consuming areas of these countries.
12 pp.©Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. All rights reserved. This case study may be reproduced for educational purposes without express permission but must include acknowledgment to Cornell University. No commercial use is permitted without permission.
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Previously Published As
Maja Slingerland (2007). Case Study #3-6, ''Biofortification in a Food Chain Approach in West Africa''. In: Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng (editors), ''Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies.''12 pp.