HarvestPlus says ‘Nigeria is the first African country to develop biofortified rice’

Country Manager, HarvestPlus Nigeria, Dr. Yusuf Dollah, has said that Nigeria is the first country in Africa to make breakthrough in development of Zinc biofortified rice. He stated this at the official commencement of Biofortified Zinc rice multi-locational trials across agro-ecological zones in Nigeria, weekend in Abuja. He said the biofortified Zinc rice is meant to improve nutrition quality of staple food, especially micronutrients often lacking in meals.

"This, (Nigeria), is the first country in Africa developing zinc biofortified rice. HarvestPlus works in over 40 countries and these varieties have been released in Asia and Latin America but In Africa, Nigeria is the first country where we will be developing these varieties.
"We initially brought in seven varieties but while carrying out the on-station trial, four came out best so we had to drop three and proceed with the four. "Aside from these varieties, there are other set-up materials coming in from India and we will commission work on those as well so that Nigerians will continue to have access to nutritious food," he said. Dr. Dollah noted that HarvestPlus is partnering with the federal government as they create the enabling environment for the development of these nutritious seed varieties.

"After release of these varieties, our partnership doesn't stop at the breeding level, we will continue to work together with the federal ministry of agriculture and food security to ensure that the seeds get to the farmers through the various seed companies that we have and agro dealers within the communities so that farmers will have access to grow and consume them at the same time.". Director Nutrition, federal ministry of agriculture and food, Mrs Sugra Mahmood explained that food security is not just about the availability of food but also its nutritious quality.

She said "The issue of food security is not just about food but also about the quality of food that is eaten. That is why what we are doing is important, it is about the biofortification of rice. "One of the major micronutrients deficiency we have in the country is zinc because it is very important for different metabolic functions and "Looking at nutrition from only the health angle will not help if we don't consider agriculture because your food should be your medicine.". While noting the importance of genetic improvement of rice and other food crops, researcher and rice breeder at the National Cereals Research Institute, Badaggi, Dr. Muhammad Bashir, said that the zinc biofortified rice will be made available to farmers in Nigeria to better availability and consumption of micronutrients in foods.
He said "In the last two years, we have done the on-station trial and after that we are proceeding to the multi-location trial which is the stage we are at now.. "We are going to expose these genotypes or biofortified zinc rice in ten locations spread across the agro-ecological zones in the country. After the test, we will find out the adaptability and the yield stability of these varieties to the different agro-ecological zones."

Source: The Guardian