On Wednesday, August 13th 2015, 14 organizations came together to sign an agreement and officially launch the Plataforma BioFORT in Guatemala. The event was held in the sunny garden of Guatemala’s Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA) and featured brief presentations by several representatives from the founding institutions. Plataforma BioFORT is a multi-institutional effort to coordinate knowledge, resources, and manpower across organizations in Guatemala to promote and further develop biofortified crops. The ultimate goal is to bring these highly nutritious crops to more rural families and reduce malnutrition rates across the country.
The launch of the Plataforma BioFORT signifies an important step in the fight against malnutrition in Guatemala. Projects on biofortification have existed in pockets of the country for years; several biofortified crops are commercially available for purchase. Yet relatively few people are aware of these, or of current or past projects. In other parts of the world, countries such as Rwanda – where 800,000 families are growing high-iron beans – or Ghana – where 95% of the maize planted in the country is QPM – have made huge strides in increasing the production and consumption of biofortified staple crops – and in each example of success, collaboration between national, international and non-governmental organizations has been key. The support of the Guatemalan government alongside local and international actors is the opportunity to follow suit, bringing together the knowledge, energy and support of each of the invested parties to realize success like has been seen in other developing countries.
The 13 signing organizations included: Semilla Nueva, the Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (ICTA), MAGA, the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), the Secretary of Food Security and Nutrition (SESAN), the Faculty of Agronomy at the University of San Carlos (FAUSAC), University of the Valley of Guatemala (UVG), Interamerican Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA Guatemala), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Vision for Latin America and the Carribean, HarvestPlus Latin America and the Carribean, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and USAID Guatemala.
Dr. Elias Raymundo, director of the ICTA, opened the event by describing the countless hours that had gone into the creation of the Plataforma and the high hopes he had for the consortium. The Minister of Agriculture Sebastian Marcucci showed the MAGA’s support for the Plataforma and spoke to the burdensome struggle of chronic malnutrition in Guatemala, after which representatives from each organization had their turn to sign the agreement. Dr. Marilia Nutti, head of the Latin American branch of HarvestPlus, shared advances in biofortification across the region. The assistant director of the ICTA, Álbaro Orellana, informed attendees about the ICTA’s ongoing research and development of various biofortified crops, incluiding maize, beans, rice, sweet potato and cassava among others.
Semilla Nueva also played a lead role in the event. Director Curt Bowen presented the goals of the Plataforma as well as how members could become involved. Food Security Coordinator Jennifer Brito spoke on the work she’s done involving biofortified foods over the past two years in rural communities in Guatemala. Jesus de La Buena Esperanza Cruz Lopez and Claudia Elizabeth Chajón – two women from the community of Conrado who have been working with QPM corn and high iron beans – shared the hope they had for their childrens’ futures, given the high nutritional value of the biofortified foods they now had access to, before directing the attendees to the back of the garden, where hot high-iron beans, fresh QPM tortillas, and pigeonpea “refresco” were all waiting. The day ended in conversation over plates of delicious foods made from biofortified corn, beans and sweet potato, excitement about the Plataforma’s next steps in the air.
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