Addressing micronutrient deficiencies in Sub-Saharan African through Musa-based foods -Phase 2

Published on 22 June 2010

Research Areas

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Countries

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Timeline

Start Date: 1 January 2010 | End Date: 31 December 2010

Overview

Plantain and banana (Musa spp) are important staple foods in sub-Saharan Africa, providing at least 25% of daily carbohydrate intake and 10% of daily calorie needs of more than 70 million people with annual per capita consumption reaching 200 kg in some areas. Plantains and bananas play an especially important role in infant nutrition, often being the first solid food to be fed to babies. Widespread malnutrition in sub-Saharan Africa often includes concomitant micronutrient deficiency. Increasing the micronutrient content of fruit (bio-fortification), such as pro-vitamin A, iron and zinc, appears to be the most sustainable and a cost-effective approach to improving micronutrient status for those populations in areas of subsistence farming. Once varieties with high micronutrient content are introduced to a target population, their production and consumption can be sustained without any additional cost.

 

The aim of this project is to launch a food-based intervention against micronutrient deficiencies in the humid forest and mid-altitude regions of sub-Saharan Africa, through a combined strategy of improved productivity to assure food security, improved nutritional quality using genetically-enriched plantain and banana, and improved processing options to conserve nutritional quality. This work is funded by HarvestPlus, a body formed from the CG Challenge Program and funded by the Gates Foundation. The work has included:

  • Identifying the best varieties with high micronutrient content from the existing elite and adapted germplasm for immediate multiplication and distribution to farmers,
  • Carrying out wide scale screening of Musa germplasm to identify useful genes from within the Musa gene-pool for use in genetic improvement programmes;
  • Incorporating identified genes (Musa and non-Musa) for nutrient enhancement into existing genetic engineering programmes for banana and plantain,
  • Identifying and promoting post-harvest processing options that do not alter the bio-availability of micronutrients.
  • Determining the inheritance of micronutrients to support a deliberate effort for genetic fortification of most productive varieties through conventional cross-breeding supported by marker-assisted selection,
  • Refining technology packages by determining genotype x process interaction effects on micronutrient stability using the best genotypes,
  • Disseminating genetically-fortified varieties and micronutrient-conserving processing options.

 

Research activities for phase 2 (2010-2011) are focused on optimising mechanisms through a proof-of-concept of fast-tracking high-vitA cultivars of different subgroups in East and Central Africa, and identifying the mechanisms underlying vitA accumulation in Musa fruits.

All findings and tools will continue to be disseminated through the regional banana and plantain research networks in East and Southern Africa, West and Central Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific, through the Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa (CIALCA) and through Bioversity-coordinated initiatives such as ProMusa, the global programme for Musa improvement.

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