Biofortification of staple foods for Africa & Asia - HarvestPlus


Syngenta Foundation supports HarvestPlus in reducing widespread undernutrition. The partners aim to make available staple food crops high in iron, zinc or provitamin A.

When diets lack sufficient nutrients Millions of people in developing countries suffer from micronutrient malnutrition. This leads to health problems and loss of life on a massive scale. The primary cause is poor-quality diet, low in minerals and vitamins. Most malnourished people may not be able to produce, or afford, micronutrient-rich foods like meat, leafy green vegetables, and fruit.


The Syngenta Foundation supports the HarvestPlus Challenge Program to improve global nutrition. The partners aim to make available staple food crops rich in important nutrients. HarvestPlus, an initiative of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), is an interdisciplinary global alliance of research institutions and implementing agencies.

The aim

HarvestPlus focuses on improving the nutritional value of staple foods that poor people already eat. This “biofortification” uses conventional breeding to develop crops richer in appropriate minerals and vitamins. The aim is to deliver micronutrients cost-effectively and sustainably to malnourished populations, especially in rural areas.

The program

The program began in 2003 and runs until 2018. Work includes developing plant breeding tools, crossing and testing crop lines for nutritional effects, disseminating new varieties, and measuring their effectiveness in improving malnutrition.

From research to development to delivery

After five years' research, the program entered the development phase. This phase ran from 2009 until 2013 and focused on iron, zinc and provitamin A in six crops across seven Asian and African countries. The main emphasis was on two nutrients: iron (pearl millet in India / bean in Rwanda) and vitamin A (hybrid corn in Zambia / cassava in Nigeria).  Delivery of crops and impact measurement follow over the remaining years of the program. 

International response

As the new phase began, the Syngenta Foundation joined the program's international supporters. These include the Gates Foundation, the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank and the UK's Department for International Development. 

Success so far

HarvestPlus and its partners have already successfully released one crop. Orange-colored sweet potato is now available in Uganda and Mozambique. This crop is rich in vitamin A.

Lack of micronutrients



 Further information about HarvestPlus and biofortified crops

  •  Howarth Bouis was the initiative's Director until the end of 2015. See why he believes that "nutrition-smart agriculture matters" - and what he told us about public-private partnerships.
  • …and for a slightly different perspective, here's the message on high-iron beans from top Rwandan musicians !
  • Read about biofortification as a sustainable strategy for reducing micronutrient malnutrition.
  • See what IFPRI said about global nutrition in 2014.
  • Watch the HarvestPlus biofortification film.