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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More