September 22, 2015 | By Roger Thurow

Cultivating Nutrition: Fortified Crops and Good Nutrition in the First 1,000 Days

Roger Thurow and Chicago Council Research Associate Louise Iverson outline the important role of fortified crops in ensuring good nutrition during the first 1,000 days, for Devex’s Future Fortified series.

A woman holds sweet potato fortified with vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency accounts for more than 600,000 deaths globally among children under 5. Photo by: <a href="" target="_blank">HarvestPlus / CC BY-NC</a>

In a rural village in northern Uganda, Aron, a bright-eyed and playful 15-month-old toddler, eagerly gobbled up a lunch of sweet potatoes and greens. His mother, Brenda, a smallholder farmer like many women in sub-Saharan Africa, cultivated and harvested this meal in her nearby fields.

These sweet potatoes, though, weren’t the ordinary sweet potatoes of Africa, which have white or yellow flesh that provide calories but little in the way of nutrients. These are biofortified, betacarotene-enriched orange sweet potatoes, developed by Ugandan scientists, and being disseminated by an organization called HarvestPlus to combat Vitamin A deficiency.

Vitamin A deficiency affects 200 million women and children worldwide, and is associated with increased risk of death among children, as well as vision disorders which can lead to blindness. Vitamin A deficiency accounts for more than 600,000 deaths globally among children under 5. In Uganda, about one-third of children under 5 and women of childbearing age suffer from vitamin A deficiency. While vitamin A supplements are a treatment option, they are costly, and the supply and distribution can be unreliable, particularly in rural areas.

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| By Roger Thurow

Lunchtime in Uganda

Senior Fellow Roger Thurow reports on nutrition in northern Uganda for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

| By Roger Thurow

The Last Hunger Season, Part 4 – One Acre Fund’s Disruptive Thinking

It is Africa’s cruelest irony that her hungriest people are her smallholder farmers. For decades, development orthodoxy had prioritized feeding hungry farmers with emergency food aid rather than improving their farming with long-term agriculture development aid so they wouldn’t be hungry in the first place.

| By Roger Thurow

The Last Hunger Season, Part 2 – A Day in the Life of Africa’s Family Farmers

On her farm at the foot of the Lugulu Hills in western Kenya, Leonida Wanyama is up long before the sun. Her day begins by lighting a candle and a kerosene lamp, and then milking her one cow. She pours the milk in containers and balances them on the back of a rickety bicycle. Then her husband Peter peddles off into the pre-dawn darkness, in search of customers for the milk. Leonida picks up her hoe to prepare for a morning of tending her crops in the field.

| By Roger Thurow

The Last Hunger Season, Part 1 – The Expanding Possibilities of Family Farmers

Zipporah Biketi was living in a shrinking world when I first met her back in 2011. Her imagination rarely stretched beyond the boundaries of her small family farm in western Kenya. She could barely think beyond the next hour and the next meal, if there was to be one. She and her family were in the midst of the hunger season – the food from the previous meager harvest had run out and the next harvest was still months away. How could anyone have grand thoughts of thriving when struggling so mightily to merely survive?

| By Roger Thurow

How Guatemala Finally 'Woke up' to Its Malnutrition Crisis

In a hip Guatemala City restaurant, baristas created “Super Nutritious” drinks like the Sangre de Vampiro, a mixture of pineapple, celery, beets, lemon, orange juice and organic honey. Elsewhere in the restaurant, the subject of malnutrition was on the table.




Digital Preview of The First 1,000 Days

In his new book, The First 1,000 Days, Council senior fellow Roger Thurow illuminates the 1,000 Days initiative to end early childhood malnutrition through the compelling stories of new mothers in Uganda, India, Guatemala, and Chicago. Get a first-look at photos and stories from the book in this new web interactive.

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The First 1,000 Days

Roger Thurow’s book will tell the story of the vital importance of proper nutrition and health care in the 1,000 days window from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.

The 1,000 days period is the crucial period of development, when malnutrition can have severe life-long impacts on the individual, the family and society as a whole. Nutritional deficiencies that occur during this time are often overlooked, resulting in a hidden hunger. It is a problem of great human and economic dimensions, impacting rich and poor countries alike.

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The Last Hunger Season

In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers' lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world's growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO's, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?

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Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, award-winning writers on Africa, development, and agriculture, see famine as the result of bad policies spanning the political spectrum. In this compelling investigative narrative, they explain through vivid human stories how the agricultural revolutions that transformed Asia and Latin America stopped short in Africa, and how our sometimes well-intentioned strategies—alternating with ignorance and neglect—have conspired to keep the world’s poorest people hungry and unable to feed themselves.

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