By Nuru Ahmed

In a decisive step towards making Tanzania’s food systems more nutritious and inclusive, the government has formally availed guidelines for biofortification activity across seed and food value chains.

The guidelines will provide an essential point of reference for value chain participants, helping to spur faster integration and scale up of biofortified seeds, grains, and foods.

Currently in Tanzania, biofortified crops include iron beans, vitamin A maize, and vitamin A orange sweet potato.

Biofortification-related policies and guidelines are in books in 24 countries worldwide and in several global and regional bodies, but Tanzania’s National Biofortification Guidelines stand out for their level of detail and comprehensive approach to fostering activity all along value chains—in seed variety development, crop production, processing, storage, distribution, and consumption.

The guidelines take a holistic view of food systems, malnutrition, and nutrition interventions, and include a review of how different strategies to combat malnutrition (including biofortification) can interact and support each other in complementary ways.

The guidelines also have key definitions for biofortification and biofortified products, with published standards on the amounts of nutrients required in a given crop or food to be designated as biofortified.

Gerald M. Kusaya, Permanent Secretary in the Minister of Agriculture, indicated in the guidelines, “It is my hope that this guideline will be used effectively and will contribute to the control of nutrient deficiencies in various age groups.”

He added, “this will enable the country to have healthy people who will actively participate in economic activities, like agriculture, and thus contribute to national economic development and enable the country to enter the middle economy as the National Development Vision 2025 sets out.”

HarvestPlus provided technical support on biofortification to Nutrition International (NI), which worked closely with the government on producing the guidelines; this was part of NI’s work under the Enhancing Nutrition Services to Improve Maternal and Child Health in Africa and Asia (ENRICH) program, which is funded by Global Affairs Canada.

When the guidelines were first announced in May, but not issued yet, the Tanzanian Government recognized the work of its partners in supporting nutrition programs in the country, particularly their assistance in developing the biofortification guidelines.

Japhet Ngailonga Hasungathe the Minister of Agriculture said, “Production and use of biofortified crops will help to decrease micronutrient deficiencies like vitamin A, zinc, and iron.”

The Tanzanian government is strongly committed to decreasing malnutrition, and recent results have been impressive: among children under five years of age, the level of stunting decreased from 42 percent in 2010 to 32 percent in 2018.

Prof Siza Tumbo the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture said, “We share the common vision and collective spirit to further reduce hidden hunger in Tanzania with nutritious food systems.”

The guidelines come just as the Commercialisation of Bioforitified Crops Programme (CBC), a joint initiative of HarvestPlus and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), gets under way in Tanzania.

The CBC focuses on catalyzing increased commercial market activity in biofortified crops and foods through a full value chain approach, and aims to reach 7.2 million Tanzanian consumers by the end of 2022. This program is ideal for translating the guidelines into concrete action.

The Tanzania guidelines also reflect a growing wave of government interest worldwide in scaling up biofortification.

For example, the Government of Bihar State in India, with the highest rate of stunting in India, recently committed to significantly scaling up production of zinc-biofortified wheat seed. Whereas the Government of Guatemala included biofortified crops in an emergency reserve established as part of a national post-COVID-19 recovery plan.