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 Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid