News / Asia

Hunger in Focus: Three Questions with HarvestPlus

In this photo taken 28, May 2010, an Assamese boy carries crops on his shoulder in a paddy field in Mayong village, about 50 kilometers east of Gauhati, India.
In this photo taken 28, May 2010, an Assamese boy carries crops on his shoulder in a paddy field in Mayong village, about 50 kilometers east of Gauhati, India.

The United Nations estimates that nearly one billion people, about 15 percent of the world's population, are malnourished and do not get enough food to eat.  This Saturday, the U.N. is marking the 30th anniversary of World Food Day to highlight the issues behind poverty and hunger.  

As part of VOA's special coverage of this issue, we interviewed Howarth Bouis, Director of HarvestPlus, a Washington-based non-profit group. Bouis says in some areas of the world, what food is available has little nutritional value.

What is your organization doing to make food more nutritious?


We have a crop that we're working on in Asia… a Pearl Millet [Pennisetum glaucum] for India.  We have high iron varieties of Pearl Millet that we'll be able to release in two years time.  Pearl Millet is a crop that is not as favored as wheat and rice, so it's eaten by the poor. So we're planning our delivery strategy now. We're finishing up the breeding. We're doing some of the nutrition studies that need to be done.  We haven't had a chance to initiate the delivery. We're trying to do the same thing with high zinc rice and wheat varieties in Asia.

What kind of reaction are you getting from the areas of the world where people don't have enough to eat?

There are several different sectors that we have to get on board in order to make this happen.  The first is the plant breeders.  We're giving them a new breeding objective.  Normally they want to increase yields.  They want to breed for disease resistance.  They are worried about raising the profits and the incomes of farmers.  We're saying, "Add this to the things you are breeding for. Put more vitamins and minerals, in addition to those other qualities."

Initially there was some negative reaction. [Farmers said] "Look we've got a lot of work to do. Let nutritionists take care of nutrition, we'll take care of increasing yields."

We were able to explain to them about the problem of malnutrition in developing countries that generally the plant breeders were not aware of. They learned what they could to do to help the situation and now we've really got a large community of plant breeders on board. Nutritionists are paying attention. They're starting to get on board. We have other studies in the pipeline. They always want to see additional evidence, so we're providing that. Now the final group that obviously that we have to get on board are the farmers and the consumers.

Has there been any problem of getting this out, or is it a matter of convincing the rest of the world that this will be beneficial to them?


The one difficulty that we're having is that it takes so long. Plant breeding is a process that takes seven or eight years. That whole process from the start to the end and getting an official release of a variety in a developing country takes eight to 10 years, so it's very difficult to get the funding and the sustained interest in a project where you
say you're only going to have impact eight to 10 years from now. That's been our big difficulty.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid