A new form of 'hidden hunger' may break out in the short or medium term across several countries in sub-Sahara Africa if no appropriate action is taken, agriculture experts have warned. 'Sub-Saharan Africa is the global ‘hotspot’ for hidden hunger. The greatest concentration of people suffering from hidden hunger are in this region,' said Yassir Islam, a senior communications specialist at HarvestPlus, an international NGO that leads a global effort to breed and distribute micronutrient-rich staple food crops to reduce hidden hunger among malnourished populations.
HarvestPlus and World Vision recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), at the last World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, making a commitment to work together to improve nutrition for hundreds of millions of people, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, from hidden hunger.
It is said this phenomenon of 'hidden hunger' is especially caused by a chronic lack of critical vitamins and minerals that puts children and adults at increased risk of stunting, anemia, blindness, infectious diseases and even death.
Furthermore, the partnership will focus on improving access to nutritious staple food crops – for home consumption and to sell in local markets – for vulnerable farming communities.
During the implementation phase, World Vision will integrate these crops into its existing programmes in nutrition, agriculture and health - through a community-participatory approach over the long term, while HarvestPlus will help generate a pipeline of new varieties over the years and develop country capacity to develop, adapt and refine these varieties over time.
Speaking during an exclusive Skype interview with PANA on Friday , the agriculture expert explained that the crop candidates for each particular country are beans (Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Malawi) as well as maize and cassava in Ghana and Sierra Leone.
'Farmers are expected to benefit because these crops are also high yielding and more robust, performing well in their fields,' he said.
As an example, he explained that orange sweet potato is among other crops that can provide the full daily vitamin A needs of young children.
Apart from educating local communities on the health benefits of these foods in order to increase consumer demand, Islam said agriculture experts look to working with the private sector to produce seed and generate markets for these nutritious crops.
'There is a now hope to replicate these success stories in millions of farming communities across Africa,' he said.