August 12, 2014 | By Roger Thurow

Nutritious Crops for Healthier Mothers & Children - Part II

At a village gathering in rural northern Uganda, Molly Ekwang walked her 15-month-old son to a spot under a shade tree where Howarth Bouis, the head of HarvestPlus, was sitting. The little boy climbed up on his lap.

Could someone take a photo?, the mother asked, so when her son is older she can tell him, “This is the man who made you smart and gave you a successful future.”

The mother is also a farmer, and she has joined a community effort to grow biofortified crops developed by HarvestPlus. Her orange flesh sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A and her beans have a higher iron content. It is a new initiative to reduce malnourishment by increasing the nutrient value of staple crops—the foods that are consumed daily. Good nutrition, especially during the 1,000 days from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to the second birthday of her child, is vital for proper physical and mental development of the child.

Molly Ekwang said she became pregnant at a time when she was first eating the sweet potatoes after the initial harvest. She believed those potatoes and the high-iron beans had fueled her son’s development; she noted he was walking and talking earlier than her other children. “He’s very bright,” she told Bouis.

In this video conversation, the second in a series of three videos, I speak with Bouis and Anna-Marie Ball, HarvestPlus Manager of Partnerships and Strategic Alliances for Africa, about a new generation of “biofortified babies.”



Watch Part I and Part III.

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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.

» Learn more.
» Order your copy of the book.

Books

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.

Learn more »

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?

Learn more »

EnoughEnough

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.

Learn more »