If you were one of the 300 million people in Africa who depend on sorghum as a dietary staple, you’d know that it’s affordable and easy to grow in drier, more vulnerable agricultural areas, making it a critical ingredient in bringing global food security closer to millions of people. What you might also know is that sorghum is deficient in essential nutrients such as amino acids, Vitamins A and E, iron, and zinc, and difficult to digest when cooked — a nutritional challenge. These deficiencies contribute to high rates of anemia and disease, as well as poor growth and cognitive development in Africa’s children, among other issues. The Africa Biofortified Sorghum Project (ABS), a public-private partner consortium, is actively working to improve the health and survival of millions of people who rely on sorghum as their primary diet, by enhancing its nutritional quality through biofortification of essential amino acids and vitamins in the grain.
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An African agricultural revolution requires action by government, public, private, and nonprofit institutions. Leading the ABS Project are Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International, Inc., a Kenya-based nonprofit, and DuPont Pioneer, a scientific lead. Phase I of the project was funded with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation under the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative; Phase II will be funded by a multi-donor strategy. Together, with a consortium of 13 other institutions, the ABS Project is focusing fundamental and applied research to harness sorghum’s potential as an economic driver, and partnering to build African scientific expertise for a food-secure future.
The public-private partnership represents a recognition that it will take the combined efforts and expertise of many to tackle this nutrition and health challenge. The consortium is committed to optimizing innovations and public health solutions, achieving better health and nutrition, and ensuring that potential seed produced is accessible royalty-free and at an affordable cost to the people most in need — so that this “golden” sorghum will help feed Africa and the developing world nutritious food, now and into the future.