“Biofortification is a new science of breeding nutrient dense varieties of staple crops that provides essential vitamins and minerals to consumers.”

Exclusive interview with Nicholas Mwansa, Regional Maize Seed System Specialist for Africa at HarvestPlus, silver sponsor at the upcoming AgriTech Expo from 5-6 April in Chisamba, Zambia.

1. What products, services and projects of HarvestPlus are you most excited about at the moment?
HarvestPlus is introducing micronutrient biofortified staple crops. These crops grown and consumed by large populations are biofortified with Vitamin A, Iron and Zinc nutrients which are essential for good human health.

•  Vitamin A rich Orange Maize (First release in Zambia)
•  Vitamin A rich Orange Sweet Potato (First release in Uganda)
•  Iron and Zinc rich Beans (First release in Rwanda)
•  Vitamin A rich Orange Cassava (First release in Nigeria)

2. What makes your company competitive in this market?
Biofortification is a new science of breeding nutrient dense varieties of staple crops that provides essential vitamins and minerals to consumers. HarvestPlus is a leader in introducing nutritionally richer staple crops through CONVENTIONAL PLANT BREEDING.

3. Any specific projects or success stories?
Development and dissemination of biofortified Vitamin A Orange maize in Zambia is a unique success story. Whereas coloured maize varieties have been frowned upon and shunned by growers and consumers in Zambia and other countries in the region, Vitamin A orange maize has been embraced and enjoys high acceptability levels. Nutritional benefits make the difference. Orange maize is also accepted as a better testing crop and will be entering school feeding programmes as superior to white maize!

4. Main challenges for the agriculture sector in Zambia.
The main challenge is to meet the needs of the smallholder farmer who constitute the majority population and in whose echelons poverty resides. These needs include timely delivery of affordable inputs such as seed, fertilizers, chemicals etc. and to provide functional markets for the produced outputs.

5. What advice would you give to someone who is interested in investing in the Zambian agro sector?
Zambia is a good destination to invest in the sector with good soils and climate as well as favourable agricultural policies. However, undertake a value chain analysis before investing. Some products like Maize and Soya beans have developed value chains others have underdeveloped value chains that would require heavy financial and infrastructure investment.

6. What is your vision for the sector, also in terms of the region?
Favourable government policy environments, regional and local market integration, nutritional sensitive agriculture, improved health and conquering HIV epidemic.

7. What surprises you about the sector?
Smallholder farmer resilience to market shocks: Smallholder farmers still plant crops even with late input deliveries, late start of rains and uncertain markets. Also surprising for Zambia is poor attention to the potential of irrigation development.

8. Why did you decide to partner with AgriTech Expo?
It is our belief that AgriTech Expo will be a vehicle for advocacy, information dissemination, knowledge sharing and lesson learning in moving forward with Biofortification. The ultimate objective is to mainstream biofortified crops and we believe that Agri tech Expo is one of the sure way of getting there.

9. What will be your main message at the Expo?
HarvestPlus provides better crops for better nutrition. HarvestPlus aims to reduce Hidden Hunger among malnourished populations.

10. Any thing you would like to add?
The most efficient approach is a collaborative one where private, public and civil society work together to end poverty and malnutrition. AgriTech Expo has the potential to bring these sectors together at one event and space to interact and share!


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