Biofortifying local agricultural products through agroecological practices - OR4FOOD
In rural parts of the Sahel, mother/child pairs often suffer from deficiencies in the micronutrients - vitamin A, iron and zinc - that guarantee good health. This is known as “hidden hunger”. In Senegal, micronutrient deficiencies, especially zinc, affect one in three young women and more than half of all children under the age of five. This malnutrition issue is linked to the lack of diversity in traditional diets, which are low in fruit and vegetables (perishable and expensive) and in animal products. The resulting delays in terms of growth and cognition have a serious impact on development in these countries. The African Union Commission estimates the loss of workplace productivity at 11% of GDP on average in African countries.
The OR4FOOD project is committed to micronutrient biofortification of commonly consumed food products, such as millet, cowpea, teff and peas, working with farmers to implement agroecological selection of varieties that are naturally high in micronutrients, along with fertilization with organic waste.
A variety of agroecological tools will be assessed in the laboratory and in the field - on experimental stations and in a network of farm plots. The goals will be to:
- combine the crop varieties that are naturally the most micronutrient-rich with local organic matter that is also densest in these nutrients,
- mobilize local microorganisms to increase the transfer of micronutrients from organic matter to plants,
- optimize combinations of these crops to maximize the nutritional yield of plots.
The project will also focus on food processing and preservation techniques (wholemeal flours for young children).
All of the project activities will be aimed at selecting the cropping systems and processing techniques that are the most efficient in terms of nutritional yield and the easiest to adopt for the target rural populations.
To assess this, different measurements of micronutrient content will be made both in food products - all along the production chain, up to processing and the assessment of their bioavailability for the human body - and in the environment. Indeed, the micronutrients contained in organic fertilizers can potentially pollute the environment if not completely assimilated by plants. The environmental sustainability of practices will therefore also be assessed.
The project will be implemented through innovation platforms in which farmers, processors, researchers, nutritionists and beneficiary populations will work together.
- Agroecological practices will have had a demonstrated impact on the nutritional quality of plant products.
- Micronutrient-deficient populations will have access to agro-biofortified processed foods.
- A shared vision of an agroecologically biofortified food system will have emerged, based on traditional knowledge and proposed agroecological innovations.
- The solutions will not only be reliable, profitable and environmentally friendly, but also acceptable to the actors concerned and integrated into a realistic strategy to combat hidden hunger.
ISRA (Institut Sénégalais de Recherche Agricole - Senegal), ITA (Institut de Technologie Alimentaire - Senegal), UCAD (Cheikh Anta Diop University, Dakar - Senegal), Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia) and IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement - France)