News / Asia

India Fortifies Food to Fight 'Hidden Hunger'

An Indian farmer pulls his oxen after plowing a rice paddy in Allahabad, India, June 17, 2010 file photo.
An Indian farmer pulls his oxen after plowing a rice paddy in Allahabad, India, June 17, 2010 file photo.
Aru Pande
Malnutrition is more common in India than in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the United Nations. To address this "hidden hunger," Indian officials are joining forces with a U.S-based program to fortify staple foods with key nutrients.

The numbers are stark. The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) says in India, one in every three children is malnourished, and nearly half of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition.

The problem centers not necessarily on how much people are eating, but what they are eating. Millions in India rely on rice and wheat to fill their stomachs, but those staple foods lack crucial vitamins and minerals.

Parliament member and agriculturist M.S. Swaminathan, known as the father of India’s “Green Revolution” for introducing high-yielding crop varieties to farmers, says about 900 million men, women and children around the world are malnourished.

States in India with highest under-nutrition ratesStates in India with highest under-nutrition rates
States in India with highest under-nutrition rates
States in India with highest under-nutrition rates
“Nearly two billion suffer from iron deficiency and anemia particularly women, pregnant women," he says. "Therefore, overcoming this micronutrient deficiency, or what we call hidden hunger, is of great priority to us, because enough calories alone won’t help.”

Indian leaders turned to the Washington-based non-governmental organization HarvestPlus and its use of biofortification, breeding more vitamins and minerals in staple food crops, to address micronutrient deficiency.

Last year, after a decade of research,  HarvestPlus released an iron-enriched pearl millet seed to farmers in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

The biofortified millet, which is then made into a flat bread, or roti, can provide 30 percent of the average daily iron needs of adult women, which is crucial in a region where an estimated 66 percent of children under five are anemic.

India is the latest country to enter the realm of biofortification. Several countries in Africa, including Zambia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, already plant seeds enriched with nutrients.

“Africans eat white sweet potato, Africans eat white maize [corn], Africans eat white cassava, but there is a big vitamin A deficiency problem," says Dr. Howarth Bouis, director of HarvestPlus. "So, we have an orange sweet potato now that has been available in Africa for the last five years and we have been disseminating that.”

In Zambia, farmers planted orange corn for the first time last November.

Bouis says yellow cassava seeds were released in Nigeria more than a year ago and farmers are harvesting the vitamin A-rich crop for the first time this year. HarvestPlus says one-third of children under five in Nigeria and 61 percent in the Democratic Republic of Congo are estimated to be vitamin A deficient.

In South Asia, HarvestPlus plans to introduce high-zinc rice in India and Bangladesh and high-zinc wheat in parts of India and Pakistan later this year.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: bharati from: bharat
March 05, 2013 1:03 PM
There are (and were) plenty of local, rich nutritious strains of grains, which thrive in local conditions. These can be revived rather than importing new foods/ newly created strains.

There are tons of manure and sewage which can be treated and used for revitalizing soils.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs