22 September 2014
IDRC Project in Ethiopia Improves Nutrition through Plant Breeding
story highlights

Farmers in southern Ethiopia have achieved a two-fold increase in chickpea productivity through enhanced soil health and improved crop varieties.

At the same time, improved food processing, preparation methods and education programs have contributed to better nutrition, including through the incorporation of chickpeas into diets.

IDRCSeptember 2014: Farmers in southern Ethiopia have achieved a two-fold increase in chickpea productivity through enhanced soil health and improved crop varieties. At the same time, improved food processing, preparation methods and education programs have contributed to better nutrition, including through the incorporation of chickpeas into diets.

These are the findings of the ‘Improving Nutrition in Ethiopia through Plant Breeding and Soil Management’ project, which researches the biofortification of pulse crops. It employs strategies to enrich the nutrient contribution of staple crops (chickpea) through plant breeding, soil micronutrient management (zinc fertilizer) and household processing strategies. It supports biofortification as a cost-effective and sustainable approach to increasing micronutrients in crops using agronomic strategies. The project also focuses on women’s empowerment.

The project’s outcomes include increases in: soil fertility and crop productivity; micronutrients and nutrition; knowledge and skills; income; and earnings from trade. Project results show that investing in biofortification practices provides a cost-effective and sustainable approach for increasing micronutrients in diets and improving nutrition. More farmers are adopting new varieties of chickpeas; households are decreasing women’s workload through different methods of processing, preparation and consumption of pulses; and partnerships and collaboration between institutions are helping to build capacity.

Ethiopia has one of the worst rates of protein-calorie malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency in the world, particularly in southern Ethiopia, where 75% of pregnant women suffer from zinc deficiency and nearly half of child deaths are associated with protein and micronutrient deficiencies. Food insecurity is mainly caused by low productivity and poor access to farming resources and technology, as well as a lack of key nutrients. Changes in agricultural practices and nutrition interventions, as pursued by the project, are necessary to combat food insecurity.

This case study is one of a series of nine ‘Stories of Change’ that share some of the gender outcomes emerging from research in sub-Saharan Africa that is supported by the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF), a program of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). [Case Study: From Fields to Fingers: Enriching Soils and Seeds to Improve Nutrition]

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