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$4 million to bring healthier sorghum in Africa

The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and DuPont today announced a $4 million grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to bring healthier sorghum to underserved communities in Africa.

The grant will help fund the completion of the development of biofortified sorghum, a more nutritious and digestible sorghum for Africans who depend upon sorghum as their staple diet. DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred began working on the project in 2005 in conjunction with the African Biofortified Sorghum (ABS) Consortium, an Africa-led public-private partnership. The ABS Consortium is a key partner in this project and will work to secure regulatory approvals and pursue production and deployment plans as Pioneer and Danforth complete product development.

Sorghum is a cereal that has many characteristics comparable to corn. However, unlike corn, sorghum is naturally drought tolerant. It provides calories and minimal nutrition in dry areas of Africa such as in the Sahel, the area of Africa just south of the Sahara desert. The sorghum nutritional improvement project will permit greater levels of essential nutrients to be delivered to those who live in arid places where sorghum is relied upon as the staple food source. Additionally, the biofortified sorghum may become important in new geographies as a result of the effects of climate change.

The project focuses on increased zinc and iron bioavailability through phytate reduction, improved protein digestibility and increased pro-vitamin A levels. These key nutrients and micronutrients aid in child development, and reduce rates of diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, lower respiratory tract infections and curb Vitamin A deficiency, which is the leading cause of acquired blindness in children in the developing world.

“Improving the nutrition of this staple crop has the potential to change the lives of more than 300 million Africans,” said Howard G. Buffett, president of the Foundation. “I have seen first-hand the devastating effects of malnutrition. I have a personal commitment to see that healthier sorghum gets to the people of Africa.”

The introduction of biofortified sorghum is expected to have a major impact on the health and life of targeted communities in Africa – not only by offering improved nutrition, but by providing the sorghum at minimal cost to growers. Biofortified sorghum will be distributed to underserved communities in multiple African countries, royalty free.

“The collaboration between Buffett, Danforth and DuPont is a powerful example of the ability of public-private partnerships to accelerate innovation to solve problems,” said Paul E. Schickler, president – Pioneer Hi-Bred. “We are just a few short years away from getting nutritionally improved sorghum into the hands of those who need it most.”

Pioneer is the lead technology provider and the Danforth Center will provide monitoring, evaluation and financial oversight with respect to the project milestones.

“We are very pleased to facilitate the funding of this valuable project in order to advance its development,” said Paul Anderson, executive director, Office of International Programs, Danforth Plant Science Center. “We have a strong interest in seeing sorghum make a greater contribution to the health and livelihood of African farmers.”



by S. C.
14 may 2011, World News > Africa

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